Sunday, July 31, 2016

I'm out

And just when you thought the Blob would never shut up ... it's shutting up.

Well, for a few days, anyway. I'm off for a little R&R, which means you will not be able to read the usual nonsense until, um, probably next weekend. At which time I'll no doubt have a lot to say about a lot, so tune back in,

Until then, you may talk quietly among yourselves. But no gum-chewing. I mean it.

Whine time

I feel Donald Trump's pain. I do.

The Game Show Host thinks it's ridiculous two of his upcoming presidential debates with Hillary Clinton are going up against the mighty Shield, and so he whined about it as only the Game Show Host can whine. Which is to say, he lied through his teeth.

He claimed the NFL complained to him about the debates conflicting with two NFL games, something the Shield matter-of-factly denied. But I still feel for the Game Show Host, even though the debate schedule has been in place for almost a year, and the NFL schedule for several months, too.

I mean, what happens if more people tune in to watch the Saints-Falcons on Monday Night Football Sept. 26  than Trump-Hillary? Or even worse, Tampa Bay vs. Carolina on Oct. 9?

What a blow to the ego that would be for him. Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, more riveting than Donny? Cam Newton with more to say worth hearing than the Game Show Host? But ... but ... he's the most important guy in the world right now! Just ask him!

Of course, I could give him the benefit of the doubt here and suggest this isn't about Donny wanting to be the sole center of attention on those nights. I could suggest he's complaining on behalf of the American people.

Yeah. As if.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Today in tone deafness

Or, "Two Incidents That Certain People Will Surely Decry As Political Correctness Run Amok, Because Decrying Political Correctness Run Amok Has Become The New Political Correctness."

One, a Texas A&M slideshow put together by a couple football assistants that included a parody version of the school fight song teleported, apparently, from the 1950s. Really, gentlemen? "Put down your dishtowel and take off your gloves"? "No more Lysol, no more Cascade"?

Head football coach Kevin Sumlin immediately slapped down the people responsible, on account of the fact women got out of the kitchen decades ago. I know, there's a certain sub-species of male that longs to go back to those days -- Barefoot, pregnant and bakin' cookies, that's how we like our women, by God! -- but that sub-species is knee-deep in the tar pits with the rest of the dinosaurs.

Pssst.  Hey, guys. It's 2016. Maybe you heard about it.

Which brings to our second adventure in tone deafness.

It seems a new junior hockey team in Erie, Pa., decided to call itself the "Lake Erie Warriors," which was fine as far it went, except that someone decided to take it a step further. So they introduced this as the team logo.

Seriously, people?

Yeah, there's nothing racist at all about that. I mean, look how fierce looks! What a proud, noble image of Native Americans! After all, they were all screaming savages, right?

The backlash, thankfully, was immediate and overwhelming. So the club not only yanked the logo, it ditched "Warrriors" for the more inoffensive "Gulls."

Which, to be honest, does seem like an overreaction. Ditching the logo would have been sufficient. Again, it was like something out of the 1950s, those golden days when you could insult racial minorities and women to your heart's content (and more than just insult them), and nobody called you on it.

Ah, the good old days.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Your Olympic fiasco update

So we're eight days away from the opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics, and let's get the good news out of the way first: No one has found any body parts adjacent to Olympic venues for, like, days.

So it's all good, right?

Well ... unless you count the fact that 19 of the 31 high-rise apartment buildings that comprise the Olympic Village haven't passed safety inspections yet. And that the Argentinians are claiming their quarters have been sabotaged. And that the venues for the yachting and open swimming competitions are even more an open sewer than originally thought, with competitors trying to achieve their Olympic dreams in a stew of diarrhea-inducing rotaviruses and "super bacteria".

"Foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap," a local pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Becker, told the New York Times.

Let the Games begin!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Five for fighting (the obvious)

No, denial is not just a river in Egypt. Turns out it's a frozen river in Egypt.

Or so we can assume now that the Ice King himself, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, has once again denied there exists any credible evidence that suggests sports-related concussions can lead to long-term brain damage. This time he did it in a letter to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

"[T]he science regarding CTE, including on the asserted 'link' to concussions ... remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms," Bettman wrote, adding that current research establishes no "causal link between CTE and concussions in team sports generally, much less in NHL hockey."

Actually, there's plenty of research that suggests a causal link, and there has been for some time. Research into the exact link may be ongoing, but that there is one has been fairly well established for nearly a decade. Even the NFL has come to that conclusion, and the NFL spent the better part of 20 years with its eyes glued shut, discrediting any research (and trashing the reputation of any researcher) who suggested as much. The Shield even debunked its own research on the matter back in 2010 or so.

And yet here comes Gary Bettman, who must have fallen asleep back in 2010 or so and has yet to awaken. No credible evidence that repeated blows to the head and CTE are linked? What planet is the man living on?  

I'll tell you which one: The Planet of I'm Gettin' Sued.

See, the NHL is up against a class-action lawsuit filed by 105 former NHL players, who claim the league failed to properly warn players of the risks associated with repeated concussions. And so Bettman is pretty much compelled to stonewall the thing, no doubt on the advice of counsel.

Problem is, every time he does stonewall, he makes the players' case for them. They are, after all, claiming the league ignored the issue, or even refused to acknowledge one existed. Which is exactly what Bettman continues to do.

Nice strategy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mandate time

That W flag you keep running up the flagpole, it's not just a W flag anymore, Cubs Nation. It's now officially a commandment.

You don't sell a piece of the future to the buy the present if that's not the goal, and Cubs GM Theo Epstein acknowledged as much after the team traded a fistful of prospects for Aroldis Chapman and his 100-mph fastball. The future is now for the Cubs -- "If not now, when?" Epstein asked -- and so they overpaid for Chapman, who will give them the ace closer they didn't have and brings up to code their bullpen, the only perceived weakness in their arsenal.

Which means, unmistakably, that it's World Series or bust now.

And, yes, that is a huge tempting of the fates, and every Cubs fan who remembers the collapse of 1969 and the collapse of 1984 and the collapse of 2003 knows it. This thing has been on their racquet before -- not often in 108 years, but enough -- and then vanished. And so even if the addition of Chapman makes them look like your basic odds-on favorite, there will no doubt be trepidation in the ranks of Cubdom that this is all going entirely too well. 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is an unavoidable learned behavior when you haven't won a World Series since 1908, and haven't even played in one since two months after V-J Day. Something bad is always out there, no matter how much good is around.  And so the Cubs fans I know, while mightily pleased that Chapman's on board, remain wary. Stuff could still happen.

But every sign is pointed in their direction right now. They not only have the best starting rotation in the game, they might now have the deepest 'pen. And it's pitching that wins in the playoffs. It's pitching that beat them a year ago, when the Mets crisped them with all those flamethrowers.

Who are still around, by the way. And who swept them in a three-game set in New York to open July, then beat them 2-1 in Chicago as Noah Syndegaard outdueled Jake Arrieta in a battle of aces whose outcome was eerily reminiscent of the NLCS last fall.


Monday, July 25, 2016

The sad sound of crickets

It's so hard to watch this now. The past keeps intruding, those vast cliffs of roaring humanity. The memories of the good days -- 1994, 1995, on and on -- crowd close. It's the sour flip side of having seen so much in 38 years as a sportswriter in Indiana, the price you pay for the overwhelming abundance of good stuff.

And so I sat in a Buffalo Wild Wings and watched the Brickyard 400 yesterday, and I mourned the essential death of what used to be an Event. Now it's not even an event, small "e." It's just another NASCAR race -- which is why I was watching it in a B-Dubs, because the Brickyard 400 was on NBCSN, no longer deemed worthy of network TV.

Just another vast-wasteland cable entity now, like, say The Flash on the CW. That's what's become of one of NASCAR's crown jewels. That's the Event that drew 250,000 Dale Earnhardt-shirt-wearin' yahoos to Indianapolis once upon a glorious time. And now?

Now it's a ghost town. Now it plays to mostly empty seats, judging by the overhead shots that showed small clumps of fans here and there, huddled in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's sea of grandstands like the first settlers in an untracked wilderness.

Maybe 50,000, that was the estimate. Maybe. And if part of that was because it was a brutally hot day, part of it was also an unmistakable verdict on the not-even-small-"e" event. Why go sit out in 93-degree heat to watch a parade?

Because, frankly, that's all the Brickyard is, and the fans have figured that out. Yesterday was perhaps the starkest example yet of that; polesitter Kyle Busch led 149 laps, including the last 109. I got onto the broadcast approximately halfway through the race. I never saw a pass for the lead -- even on the restarts, when Busch simply drove away from everyone again.

Not that NASCAR didn't try to gin things up, throwing a bogus debris yellow with 12 or so laps to run for a piece of trash that was clear up by the wall and well out of the racing groove. That forced one last restart, which led to a big crash, which led to a red flag and another crash on another restart ... which led to Busch driving away from everyone again on the final restart.

Game over. Although everyone left in attendance knew it had been over for some time.

And, again, so hard to watch, for someone who was there for the inaugural Brickyard in '94, who remembers the buzz around NASCAR at Indy, who remembers when the sport was so big it briefly indulged the illusion that it was America's fourth major sport. But then it came back to reality, and the Brickyard came with it. The tire fiasco in 2008, coupled with the Wall Street crash, was the beginning of the end; crowds and national interest have dwindled every year since.

Now it's not the Brickyard anymore, really. It's only an echo of the Brickyard.

Sad. So sad.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Revolt of the fashionista(s)

OK, so maybe cutting it up was a tad over the top. But can you really blame Chris Sale of the White Sox for refusing to hark back to those hallowed days of yesteryear by wearing this mess?

That's what the Sox foisted on its players as a throwback uni the other day, and Sale, the ace of their pitching staff, said "nuh-uh." So he cut the uniforms up so the Sox couldn't wear them, and the Sox scratched him form a scheduled start against the Tigers.

Which, again, was a bit much, probably. And which was even more probably the kind of stunt an angry 5-year-old pulls. And which was even more probably a classic case of not keeping your eye on the prize, because it's the playing of the game that matters, not what you're dressed in.

On the other hand, a man (or woman) does have to have standards.

So, no, the Blob isn't inclined to blame Sale for his fashionista revolt. I mean, if  you're going to Harken Back To Yesteryear, why Harken Back to the 1970s, the decade taste forgot?  Maybe if the guys originally tabbed to wear those monstrosities had balked at doing so, there wouldn't be any monstrosities to Harken Back To today.

The 1976 White Sox unis, after all, have been almost universally panned as the worst uniforms in Major League history. And remember the shorts?


 And, sure, OK, it's not like the first time teams have compelled their players to go out there looking like circus clowns. Remember the Houston Astros old Technicolor Yawn unis? Remember, just a week or so ago, the All-Star Home Run Derby participants being compelled to wear that yellow-and-brown mess the Padres wore in the '70s?

And what was it about the '70s, anyway? Have you gone back and looked at what we all thought was the height of fashion then?

So, yeah, I'm with Sale on this one. There must be standards. And maybe if there were more people willing to stand up for them, we'd never be subjected to whatever that is the Oregon Ducks football team is wearing this week, or IU wearing what seems to be 15 different helmets, including a silver, candy-striped number that looks like what Santa would have worn had he been chosen as one of the Mercury astronauts.

Although it is IU football, so I could understand why they'd want to hide their identity behind an ever-changing array of headgear. But, seriously, people. Seriously.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The great un-silencing

WNBA President Lisa Borders has a problem, and not the one endemic to the league she leads, which is that it exists in the shadowland of American sport for a smorgasbord of reasons ranging from calendar misplacement (the league plays only in the summer) to gender bias (America just doesn't care to watch women play basketball all that much).

No. This is a different problem: Borders' workforce has a social conscience.

They've taken to wearing plain black warmups with #blacklivesmatter and #dallas5 on the front as game warmups, a show of support for both Black Lives Matter and law enforcement that acknowledges the common ground between them. Both sides, after all, have the same message these days: Please stop shooting us.

And so the women wear the shirts to endorse that message, eloquently (and perhaps patiently) explaining to America's polarized that expressing concern over black citizens getting shot when they shouldn't be getting shot, and condemning the killing of police officers in retaliation, are not mutually exclusive positions.

"We really would appreciate if people stopped making our support of Black Lives Matter, an issue that is so critical in our society right now, as us not supporting the police,” said one of the player's spokespersons, Swin Cash. “There’s a lot of women in this room right now, in the WNBA, who have family members who are in law enforcement… People need to understand that it’s not mutually exclusive. You can support both things.”

Well. Apparently not on Borders' watch.

The league's response, after all, was startlingly tone deaf in its heavy-handedness. It fined the players taking part in the protest -- from the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury -- $500 each for wearing the shirts, on the premise that it violated the league's uniform policy. That was more than twice the normal uniform violation fine of $200, and suggested the league was not just functioning as the usual mindless corporate entity but as thought police, too.

Oh, no, no, no, no, says Borders, who claims the league encourages the players to get involved in social issues, just, you know, as long they abide by that all-important dress code.

"We were making every effort to engage our players," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday night. "We made an effort to support them and we were trying to get them to come to the table to have a conversation. The players have an open invitation with the league. Our players are important to us. We believe in them. We want them to be the people they are and we're proud of them. We want to make sure they play well on the court and they are happy off the court."

Which sounds like what it is, mainly, a lot of blah-blah-blah damage control. Bottom line, by acting in such a clearly punitive manner, the league comes off looking as if it's punishing its players for speaking out against violence. And that's a bad look.

Especially when the players have said they're not backing down, and will continue to defy the league. And that, from where the Blob sits, is a very good look.


Because it defies the usual narrative that professional athletes are all self-absorbed elites who function in a gated community of sorts, far away from the realities of American life. That perception has been shaped by decades of athletes whose big contracts and chunky commercial endorsement deals have acted as a damper on their consciences. Oh, they could be activists if the cause was something safe and uncontroversial (disease research, for instance), but standing up when standing up might have real financial consequences ... well, not so much. Wouldn't want to make Father Nike uncomfortable or anything.

And so we had Michael Jordan's famous "Republicans buy shoes, too" line. It was a stark reminder of how far American sports had drifted away from the Muhammad Alis and Arthur Ashes and Jackie Robinsons, who spoke out (and stood up) at considerable personal risk, simply because it was the right thing to do.

And yet, so many of today's athletes are, in fact, very familiar with those aforementioned realities of American life. Many, many of them were shaped by those realities. Many, many of them are where they are right now because of those realities, and because of the desire to escape them.

Is it any wonder their consciences are still stirred by what goes on out there in the world that formed them? And that they would want to use the platform they have to at least try to make some small difference?

This is social activism in its best form, frankly. And regardless what you think about these women and what they are standing up for -- which, frankly, is as simple and ecumenical as it gets -- they're to be commended for it.

Not fined. Not punished. Not treated the way the USOC treated Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City in 1968 -- sent home like a couple of common criminals for raising gloved fists on the medal stand, a place deemed not appropriate for such displays of "political' expression.

Even if there was no better place for such expressions. Even if, today, the basketball floor is no better place.

Update: Borders has withdrawn the fines imposed on the protesting players. Common sense prevails.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gifts from Gearhead Heaven

God loves the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I know this because he keeps giving the place a hand up just when it needs it, even though it sometimes doesn't seem like it. He gave the place Tony Hulman just when it looked as if it would fall into irreversible ruin. He gave it Wilbur Shaw and Bill Vukovich and Rodger Ward and A.J. and Mario 'n' them, replenishing the stock of marketable commodities every time the cupboard was about to go bare. And you think the joint survived the era of Brad Murphey the Racing Cowboy and Dr. Jack Miller the Racing Dentist all by itself?

Silly you. A celestial hand surely was behind that.

The same hand brought NASCAR to Indy just when NASCAR was becoming a national phenomenon whose outrageous success haunts it in these lesser days. (As for Formula One ... well, even God burns dinner once in awhile). And now that the shine is off that particular deal, look what the Almighty has cooked up now.

The Brickyard 400 -- a faded act that plays to half-empty houses these days -- is getting not just one, but two crowd-pleasing storylines this weekend. And at a time when even the weather (forecast is for highs in the mid-90s with heat indexes between 105 and 110) seemed to have conspired against it.

One, this is Indiana favorite son Tony Stewart's farewell turn at Indianapolis.

Two, this is Indiana favorite son Jeff Gordon making a nostalgia turn there, eight months into his retirement.

It's Smoke's last hurrah because he's stepping out of the car at the end of this season. And Gordon's back for a glorious coda of sorts because Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still out with concussion-like symptoms. And who better to step into the No. 88 this weekend than a five-time Brickyard champion who defines the entire arc of the event's existence?

It was Gordon, who grew up a dozen or so miles west of the Speedway, who won the inaugural Brickyard back in 1994, a perfect convergence of occasion and script. And it was Gordon who won again in 2014, 20 years later.

Now he'll come back one last time. And Smoke takes one last shot at a third Brickyard win. And a place that reveres history down to the genetic level will have two pieces of living history to flog.

And if one or the other wins? Or, even better, if they finish 1-2?

That'll really be some Hoosier Hysteria, if it happens. Which it likely won't.

I mean, come on. The Almighty's not gonna be that obvious.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

When politicians go clueless

The Blob has said this until it's blue in the face: Politicians should never, ever, ever talk sports like Just Folks, because A) they're not Just Folks, and B) what politicians know about sports you could fit in a thimble, with room left over for a stretch limo.

(Their preferred mode of transportation).

Alas, they never listen. And so the Blob presents Paul Ryan, who'd already embarrassed himself by waving a Steelers Terrible Towel in Cleveland. (Pro tip: This is like, well, waving a Steelers Terrible Towel in Cleveland). This time, speaking to the Texas delegation at the Republican National Convention about getting behind the party's candidate, no matter what a blustering cartoon character he is, he said this: "When one team advances, to a big bowl game, or a national championship, don't you root for the Aggies ... Don't you root for the Longhorns?"

Um ... no.

No, a Longhorn is never, ever, ever going to root for an Aggie. Or an Aggie for a Longhorn. They might root for, say, an SMU Mustang, because when was the last time an SMU Mustang ever hurt an Aggie or a Longhorn on the football field? But Aggies/Longhorns rooting for Longhorns/Aggies?

Um ... no.

Here's the amazing thing about this: Ryan should know better.  After all, he owns stock in the Green Bay Packers. So he knows about rivalries. I mean, do you think for a second he'd root for the Bears in the Super Bowl?

Heck, no, he wouldn't. So how could he say something so clueless?

Answer: He's an elected official. What he doesn't know, he doesn't know.      

More fun from the Tour de Syringe

When last we left Chris Froome -- who is actually a really, really good rider, and is probably going to be your Tour de Syringe, er, Tour de France winner this year -- he was punching out a man in a chicken suit while simultaneously maintaining a blistering pace.

(If you don't understand this sentence, you don't understand the Tour. Apparently dodging people in chicken suits is part of the Tour ethos, and just one of the many challenges).

Well, things have gotten no less weird.

Most recently, Froome and another rider crashed into the back of a photo motorcycle, which unaccountably came to a dead stop right in front of them. Froome's bike was wrecked, so he did this.

Which, of course, called to mind that epic duel between Jean Girard and Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights."

Well. At least for some of us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Today in Olympic fiasco news

The coming clustermess that is the Rio Olympics just keeps getting more and more cluster-y.

Comes now the news that the World Anti-Doping Agency's executive board is pushing the International Olympic Committee to kick the Russians out of the Games. This is because WADA just finished an investigation that showed the Russian government was complicit in a widespread scheme to circumvent drug testing.

Apparently the Russians went around the rules by hiding positive tests, especially among its top-tier athletes. It was effective; between 2012 and 2015, this system allegedly covered up 643 positive doping tests. And it was apparently most rife among the winter athletes -- who, after all, needed to be fully juiced in 2014 because Russia was the host nation and no host nation likes to lose on its home turf.

It worked. The Russians led the medal count at Sochi with 13 gold and 33 total medals.

And now?

Now one of the powerhouse nations of the summer games is in dire peril of being banned from Rio. Which is yet another blow to an event already dealing with a widespread Zika outbreak, contaminated and unfinished sites, political instability and a bankrupt national treasury.

Welcome to Moscow 1980 (in which the U.S. declined to participate). Welcome to Los Angeles 1984 (in which the Soviets, in retaliation for 1980, declined to participate). Now with added disease, corruption, crime and open sewers masquerading as venues!

And, of course, more drug cheats, because it's the Olympics and there are precious few Polly Purebreds out there -- even among nations that sanctimoniously claim to be so.

I can't wait.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Magnificent echoes

Shot by shot, nerveless response by nerveless response, the past took us hostage.

It does that on occasion, and too often it is ugly and tragic and a thing of horror. But sometimes, if we're very lucky, it gives us what it gave us yesterday in a beautiful green place called Royal Troon.

That's where Phil Mickelson shot a 65 in the last round of what the British simply call The Open, to finish the tournament at 17-under. He ran away from the field, essentially, with four days of matchless golf. And yet the day didn't end with him hoisting the Claret Jug.

That task fell to Henrik Stenson, who was even more sublime than Mickelson. His final round of 63 was the lowest final round for a major winner since Johnny Miller's 63 at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1973, and his final score of minus-20 tied for the lowest 72-hole total in a major. Taken together with Mickelson's round, it was the most impeccable display of pressure golf since Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought it out at Turnberry in 1977 -- and it took us all right back to that now-hallowed duel with every stroke.

The past took us hostage. It overlaid 2016 with 1977 -- look, there's Watson in those hideous '70s plaid pants with the hideous '70s white belt -- and suddenly we were seeing Nicklaus shoot 65-66 across the last two days and, like Mickelson, fall short because Watson shot 65-65.  Except when this duel was done, Nicklaus himself declared it the greater feat.

 "Phil Mickelson played one of the best rounds I have ever seen played in The Open and Henrik Stenson just played better -- he played one of the greatest rounds I have ever seen," Nicklaus said.

And the happiest three words you'll ever read about that?

He had to.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eternal verities

Somewhere John McGraw must be smiling.

OK, so not smiling. Snarling, probably. Griping that, dammit, he was born too soon. Egging on Joe Maddon and Brad Ausmus and John Farrell and all the other major-league managers who've been ejected lately for arguing balls and strikes.

That's happened, apparently, because technology has happened. Seems managers are using video replay from the clubhouse or video room to make their case, and MLB exec Joe Torre cranked out a memo saying that was "detrimental to the game" and needs to stop.

As if.

As if Torre wouldn't have been doing the same thing in his managing days, had the technology been available then. Or any manager going back to McGraw and beyond, because arguing with umpires is a time-honored tradition, and time-honored traditions aren't just going to stop being time-honored traditions because Joe Torre says so.

Which gets us back to McGraw, who might have been the champion ump-baiter of all time, and who comes to mind because the Blob is re-reading Cait Murphy's excellent chronicle of the 1908 season, "Crazy '08", in which McGraw plays a prominent role.

In one instance, Murphy writes, McGraw was suspended three games for calling an ump "a piece of cheese." Or so the public accounts went; it seems the media used "a piece of cheese" as a euphemism in much the way media today uses "the magic word" as a euphemism.

"One suspects his real words were somewhat different," Murphy observes archly.

Still ... baseball being as bound to tradition as it is, wouldn't you love to see one more revived?

Go ahead, Joe Maddon. Next time you argue balls and strikes, call the ump "a piece of cheese."

And then wait for the phone call from Joe Torre, wondering where the heck you got that one.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Head trauma karma

Concussions are bad. Everyone knows this now, even the NFL, which up until a couple of years ago barely admitted concussions existed, or at least that concussions were more serious than any other owie you can contract from simulating high-speed car crashes every Sunday afternoon.

("Got a concussion? Ehhh, rub some dirt on it, you'll be fine" -- the NFL until very, very recently).

Anyway ... concussions are bad. Except when they're good, sort of.

Here's the deal: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a concussion. He can't drive this weekend. And if the symptoms happen to linger, he won't be able to drive next weekend, either.

And next weekend is the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Which plays these days before the equivalent of a Western ghost town, because NASCAR-at-Indy is no longer a draw and fans have figured out it's about as riveting as Competitive Tolstoy Reading.

It's the Tournament of Roses parade, in other words, only with louder, smaller floats. And if the most popular driver in NASCAR can't go, it becomes the Tournament of Roses parade led by disagreeable punks like Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. And who wants to watch that?

Unless, that is, you can trump it with The Return of Jeff Gordon.

See, if Junior can't race, Gordon has agreed to step into his ride. And what a piece of luck that is. Gordon, after all, is a five-time Brickyard winner and a hugely popular native son of Indiana. His re-appearance in a Brickyard one-off would be the storyline of the weekend, and NASCAR and IMS will market the bejeebers out of it.

You Thought He Was Gone, But, Look, Here He Is Again! The King! Mister Brickyard! The World's Fastest Retiree! Can He School The Whippersnappers One More Time?

And so on.

In any case, Gordon at Indy for an auld lang syne coda would be a hugely saleable narrative. And God knows the Brickyard (and NASCAR) needs saleable narratives these days.

All those empty seats agree.

Your hypothetical for today

So, now that Tom Brady has decided not to take his talents to the Supreme Court ("Awww, darn!" -- Justices Thomas, Alito, Kennedy and Breyer), it's time to play that timeless fave, What If:

1. What if Jimmy Garoppolo turns out to be really, really good?

2. What if, because Jimmy Garoppolo turns out to be really, really good, the Patriots go 4-0 during Brady's four-game sitdown?

3. What if, when Brady comes back and Garoppolo hands him the ball, Brady's not really, really good?

4. What if, because Brady's not really good, the Patriots lose a couple, which could happen because two of Brady's first four games would be at Pittsburgh and at Buffalo?

5. What if the Boston media starts referring to him as "Drew Bledsoe"?

Because, remember, it was Tom Brady who replaced Bledsoe after Bledsoe got hurt, and Brady turned out to be really, really good, and Bledsoe ended up playing for Jerry Jones in Dallas. And that's not something you'd wish on anyone.

But the point here is, Bill Belichick has no sentimentality in these matters. When Brady turned out to be really, really good, Darth Hoodie threw Bledsoe over the side like a bucked of chum, even though Bledsoe had been his QB for eight seasons, and had even taken the Pats to a Super Bowl. The Brady-Belichick connection has obviously lasted far longer with a far greater record of achievement -- but Brady's also pushing 40, so it's not like he has that many years left in the tank, anyway.

And so ...

Jimmy Garoppolo becomes the new Tom Brady!

Hey. Don't look at me like that.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Order in the court

And now, upon the news that Tom Brady's appeal of his appeal of two appeals of a counter-appeal of a counter-counter-appeal has been denied, a brief reverie: What Would It Sound Like If He Brought Deflategate To The Supreme Court?

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS: Hey, look, it's Tom Brady!


JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY:  And, look, he brought Gronk with him!

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER: Reall--? Oh, nice try, Kennedy.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Hmm. I thought he'd be taller.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Plus, Aaron Rodgers is better. And remember, Eli kicked his ass twice!

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Tom Brady, Schmom Brady. Let's talk about Trump. What a wackadoodie!

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What th--? I thought I told you guys I didn't want to hear this case! Dammit, I'm the Chief Justice! Why doesn't anyone listen to me?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The stain remains

No one wants to hear this, out there in Unhappy Valley. And you can't really blame 'em.

We are, after all, a people who like our narratives straightforward, uncluttered, clean and clear and not at all mucked up with the messiness of reality. And so, in Unhappy Valley, they want Joe Paterno to eternally be JoePa -- winner of football games and builder of men; educator first and athletic coach somewhere well down the line.

They want to put that statue back where it belongs in front of Beaver Stadium, and not feel a twitch of unease about it. And so the last thing they wanted to hear this week was this.

Which, if true, proves again that life, any man's life, is not straightforward. It's not uncluttered. It is, in fact, a mucky brew of good decisions and bad decisions and decisions made not for the common good, but for the sake of expedience.

That Joe Paterno would have brushed aside a 14-year-old camper's complaint that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused him is significant not just for the date -- 1976, long before Paterno allegedly knew of Sandusky's sick predilections -- but for everything else about the man to which it gives the lie. The man who always said football was not the first priority at Penn State, in this case at least, allegedly made football the priority in as craven a manner possible.

He had a season to prepare for? Really?

If we can believe this account, and there's no earthly reason to doubt it, Paterno put football above everything, including the welfare of children. He knew, apparently. For more than a quarter of a century, he knew. And he did nothing.

Looked the other way. Pretended it wasn't happening. Did whatever it is a man has to do to avoid confronting an inconvenient truth, while Jerry Sandusky preyed on young boys for decades.

The same goes for former Penn State assistants Tom Bradley and Greg Schiano, who also knew what was happening according to the court documents. Bradley is currently the defensive coordinator at UCLA. Schiano went on to be the head coach at Rutgers and then with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can find him in Columbus, Ohio, these days, where he's the defensive coordinator and associate head coach at Ohio State.

Think you've seen scandals in college football before? You ain't seen nothin'. It's going to be very interesting now to see how UCLA and Ohio State choose to address this.

I'm guessing they'll address it by not really addressing it. I'm guessing they'll talk to Bradley and Schiano, and then they'll come out with a statement backing whatever Bradley and Schiano tell them.

And that victim from 1976, who's in his 50s now?

He'll be betrayed yet again. So will God knows how many others across a quarter century.

And as for that statue of Joe Paterno ...

Well. It really should be restored to its rightful place.

A blast furnace.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Common indecency

We can't see it sometimes. But there still is dignity and decency and accountability in this world, still a rising-above the absurdity and tumult. There is, if we choose to look for it, a place where accommodation and the instinct to seek common ground is not viewed as weakness but for what it actually is, which is wisdom and foresight.

Never was that made more stark than by two people who landed on your sports pages yesterday, for very different reasons. That they have nothing in common with one another is self-evident -- and not just because one is a basketball player whose next stop is the Hall of Fame, and one is the wife of an NFL cornerback who needs to just shut up now, because that hole she's working on is only getting deeper.

The first, of course, is Tim Duncan, who announced his retirement yesterday as a rarity in today's free-market world: A civic treasure. He played two decades in the NBA, and all of it was in one city. And all of it was for one coach, Gregg Popovich.

The first makes Tim Duncan an anomaly. The second makes him almost utterly singular, given that coaches tend to move around as much as players these days.

But it's been Timmy and Pops from Day The First, and if that created a relationship perhaps not seen since Red Auerbach and Bill Russell were joined at the hip, it also created a sense of stability that was the foundation for five NBA titles. No less a factor in that was Duncan himself, the NBA's signature Quiet Man who led not with words but actions, and who made the San Antonio Way flesh.

He also rose far above the mindless noise we've all become accustomed to in America -- noise no better exemplified than by a woman named Miko Grimes, whose only value here is to provide an example of everything Tim Duncan isn't, and why he is of such value.

Grimes is the wife of Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes, who used to play for Miami. And so yesterday she took to Twitter to blast Miami owner Steve Ross and president Mike Tannenbaum, snidely congratulating Ross on keeping his "Jew buddies" employed.

Then, doubling down, she did what almost all bigots do: She acted the wounded party.

 "Think I'm gonna tweet racist remarks in an attempt to offend TWO PEOPLE? Lmao!! Why would I? Why would I want to offend 'Jewish' ppl?" she tweeted.

Not satisfied with that bit of nonsense, she spewed more in a statement to ESPN.

"When I wrote 'jew buddies' I was speaking about how a lot of communities (Jewish, Christian, gay, sometimes fraternities and sororities) will hire their 'own people' for jobs before others," she wrote. "That's a fact! Why people find facts offensive is strange to me. And now im a racist? Lmao! How?"

Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you went out of your way to point out the fact they were Jewish? If you're really not a bigot, why did you go there?  Why, if you weren't trying to make an obviously anti-Semitic point, did you not just say "buddies" instead of "Jew buddies"?

Please, lady. Please.

Look, we all know what this is. It's self-justification, and it's all the rage in America, especially when people get caught with their prejudices hanging out. Miko Grimes in Florida; that guy down in Sheridan who claimed he was no racist after he decorated his Fourth of July "parade float" with a caricature of President Obama in a toilet above a sign that said "Lying African."

"He's African, isn't he?" the guy said.

Well, no. He's an American, a simple reality too many damn fools still refuse to acknowledge. And we all know what "African", in this instance, was code for. But aside from that obvious point, once again it's the same weasel words, the same child's logic, the same lack of accountability. The same unwillingness - call it moral cowardice, because that's what it is -- to own your words and your actions and your attitudes.

Tim Duncan never failed to do that. Miko Grimes, whose husband's paychecks are signed by Jewish owners who lost family members in the Holocaust, could take a lesson from the Quiet Man.

Lesson No. 1: Silence really is golden sometimes. So exercise some.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Go forth and victimize

I saw a Diddlywhicker downtown yesterday.

Also a Hamish. And maybe a Cricklenoofer. Took 'em all out with a Foomieboomie.

Which is to say, I do not play Pokémon Go. I am only amused by it.

The Blob, to its knowledge, was the last person on Earth to find out about Pokémon Go, the interactive phone app that has taken America by storm. Basically, you use your phone to physically track imaginary creatures with silly names to familiar landmarks, after which you collect them or shoot balls at them or ... oh, hell, I don't know.

What I do know is this: Pokémon Go could be what finally gets America off its couch and restores it to a level of fitness not known since the 1950s, when young people ate wholesome food like double-decker cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate shakes and worked it off by sneaking cigarettes when their parents weren't looking. No wonder none of them died of heart attacks until they were 50!

Anyway ... suddenly people are tweeting out that their legs are sore from chasing the Creatures With Silly Names all over town. I'm guessing what comes next is a new affliction called Diddlywhicker Quad or Hamish Hammy.

And that's the upside. The downside ...

Well, it's this.  Which you have to admit is kind of genius, in a sick sort of way.

So beware, America. You may be tracking Diddlywhickers, but criminals are tracking you. And no Foomieboomie will keep them from relieving you of your wallet and valuables.

Your public service announcement for today.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Game of chicken

And now what will undoubtedly be the highlight of the Tour de France, which no one but sprocketheads cares about anymore because the same guy wins every year.

That would be the lab tech holding out the Dixie cup and saying "Pee in this, please."

Which leaves us with Chris Froome, who did this yesterday. Set aside for a moment the awesome skill required to take one hand off the handlebars in mid-flight to throw what looks to be a serviceable punch. It's the entire absurdity of the incident -- Tour Rider Punches Out Man In A Chicken Suit! Film at 11! -- that makes it so sublime.

Although I'm wondering if Froome would have been so quick to throw down if the guy had been dressed like this.

The greatest. Ever.

So maybe you took your eye off the ball, this one time. It's summer, you're busy, and what happened yesterday happened on the other side of the Atlantic, which might as well be Mars in a time when Americans seem more inclined to be inward-looking than most.

(And, yes, stuff is happening here, most of it bad and ugly and hateful and violent. But that's another Blob for another time)

Anyway ... maybe you took your eye off the ball. But yesterday in England, on a patch of grass as hallowed as any in the world, Serena Williams won here seventh Wimbledon title and her 22nd Grand Slam title. And it is time to pause and acknowledge what has obvious for awhile, but which we sometimes forget, given that it's tennis and tennis occupies a very small and very dim place in the American sporting conscience.

It's time to acknowledge that we are right now watching the greatest woman athlete of all time.

We're watching a woman who has exploded every conventional notion in her sport, the most prevalent being that tennis players, and especially women players, are incubated and grow to full flower by the time they're in their early 20s. By the time they're Serena's age -- 34 -- they're sitting in a broadcast booth somewhere, chronicling the rise and achievements of the next generation.

Yet here is Serena, still the best tennis player in the world. She's won nine Grand Slams since she turned 30. She won her first Wimbledon title 14 years ago. There is no precedent for this in the  history of tennis, or at least its modern history. And if Steffi Graf, whose mark of 22 Grand Slams Serena tied yesterday, might still have been the most dominant player in history in her prime, Serena's prime has lasted far longer.

"Greatest ever" is a phrase best handled the way you'd handle a vial of nitroglycerine. But you may handle it now.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Meant to be

So, this is good, right? This is two football programs that never should have parted company realizing that they're better together.

Why Notre Dame and Michigan decided to again discontinue their on-again, off-again rivalry a few years back made little sense when it happened, and it makes even less sense now, with both deciding to resume hostilities in 2018. Something about ND having to move some people off their schedule so they could slot in more ACC games, even though they're not theoretically (wink-wink) an ACC school in football. Theoretically. Wink-wink.

In any case, Michigan was shown the door. Michigan's coach at the time, Brady Hoke, said the Irish sounded like a flock of clucking chickens to him. And all of it fit the established template of this odd relationship, which goes back to the days of Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost and includes a lot of playground-y he-said/he-said tiffs over the decades since.

Eventually, one or the other would go off in a snit, even when they pretended publicly it wasn't a snit. Mad? No, we're not mad. We just need to add more ACC games. Or, Mad? No, we're not mad. We just can't fit this game into our schedule right now.

And all along, wiser heads would wag sorrowfully and add their own refrain: What are they, dopes? Notre Dame without Michigan is a diminished Notre Dame. And vice-versa. How can they not see that?

Well. Turns out they can.

And so they will resume playing one another, and hallelujah for that, because college football is its traditional rivalries, and every one restored or extended advances the game. The game's foundation is not and never has been the Rental Car/Chicken Sandwich Bowl, nor Michigan vs. Rutgers. It's Michigan-Notre Dame, and Notre Dame-USC, and Michigan-Ohio State. It's Army playing Navy in early December, and Auburn playing Alabama in November, and Texas playing Oklahoma in the full flower of October.

So, good for the Wolverines and the Irish. And you don't have to belong to either camp to applaud this.

You just have to belong to the college football camp.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Truth teller

And now the Blob hands the mic to someone who knows what he's talking about, someone who gets it, someone who, when the Back In My Day virus starting going around, decided to skip school that day.

Come on down, Larry Bird!

And lay down a little reality while you're at it.

While the Back In My Day crowd decries Kevin Durant changing jobs and prattles on about how none of the stars of their era (which, of course, was way better than this one) would have done what these mercenaries are doing now, Bird has his own take on all of it. And it's a lot more sensible than  everyone else's.

Asked in a sitdown Q&A with Nick Friedell of ESPN about all these ridiculous free agent deals being handed out, for instance, here's what he said:

"I'm happy it has. That means the league's doing well, the owners are doing well, the players are doing well. That's what it was all about. But you got to remember, when I came into the league, the guys before me were bitchin' about how much money I made. So it just goes down the line, so that's how it works."


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

KD, Part Deux

I pretty much said my piece on this Kevin Durant business yesterday. But the little rascal just won't hold still, so I've decided to tack on another piece to the piece.

This after hearing Charles Barkley criticizing Durant on the two Mikes this morning, saying KD's trying to cheat his way to a title.

In a word: Bull. Feathers.

(OK, so that's two words).

Bullfeathers, because I seem to recall Chuckles kinda-sorta doing the same thing during his playing days, about which too many old-school types develop an unfortunate case of amnesia when it comes to playing that tired old game, Back In My Day. Well, back in Charles' day, he forced a trade from Philadelphia to Phoenix, which had Tom Chambers and Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle and was coming off a 53-29 season. With the addition of Charles, the Suns went 62-20 the next year and reached the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Bulls in six games.

To sum up: Barkley left Philly to go to a team that had all the pieces in place (except him) to make a serious run at a title. In other words, he left for a better chance to win a ring.

Yet now he's going to bash KD for doing the same thing?

Weak. Weak, too, is all the other Back In The Day types saying, well, you'd never have seen Jordan or Bird or Magic doing that. Or West or Oscar doing that.

Thing about that is, Jordan and Bird and Magic didn't have to jump ship, because everyone else came to them. And West and Oscar played in an era before free agency, so they didn't have the option. As it turned out, Oscar did kind of pull off a KD-type move, although it wasn't his idea. After nine mostly fruitless seasons in Cincinnati, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks -- who just happened to have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bobby Dandridge, and who, with Oscar, won the NBA title the year he arrived.

I've never seen anywhere that Oscar gave the ring back because he just happened to land on an NBA champion. And when Charles left Phoenix?

He went to the Rockets, who still had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler from a team that had won back-to-back NBA titles a couple of seasons prior.

 But, yeah. Those old-school guys, they never chased any rings.

Wimbledon the indomitable

I defer to legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins on this one. It was Jenkins, after all, who used to refer to the powers-that-be at Wimbledon as air marshals and wing commanders, implying that the place was  run with an English sense of propriety and order practically military in its defiance of compromise and common sense.

Which was made manifest yesterday when this happened.

I mean, seriously: They wouldn't let the man answer a call of nature. How much more Wimbledon can you get? Sorry, old chap, you've used up your two allotted bathroom breaks. Nature will simply have to wait. Play on

Not even the man, Pablo Cuevas, threatening to pee in a ball can could soften those stiff upper lips. It was almost noble in a way, Wimbledon defying the human bladder the way all those air marshals and wing commanders defied the Jerries during the Battle of Britain. You could almost hear Edward R. Murrow in the background, intoning "This ... is London."

And then adding: "You'll go when we tell you to go. And not an instant sooner."

Rooting interest, the sequel

OK. So now that Iceland is gone from Euro2016 -- I don't know about you, but I'm gonna miss all those guys named "Ragnar" -- who's left to root for with the field down to four teams?

Silly question. It's Wales, of course!

Wales, blessed by an excess of consonants. Wales, which will use those consonants to club poor Portugal into submission this afternoon -- or, failing that, perhaps just employ megastar Gareth Bales to do it, which is probably the wiser strategy.

Wales! Better at kicking a ball around than the rest of that sorry lot with whom they share a certain island!

Plus, if the Welsh would happen to win this afternoon, there's a chance we'll hear this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The pursuit of happiness, KD-style

Well, this is a hell of a thing, considering we just celebrated the Declaration of Independence and all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't it say something in there about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Kevin Durant went looking for all of that, especially the last part, and now they're burning his jersey in Oklahoma City and TV blowholes like Stephen A. Smith are calling him weak, and various and sundry others are saying, with deep disapproval, that it's not about the money for him, it's about the rings.

I'm sorry, but ... what?

Once upon a time, I seem to recall, we used to criticize athletes for being money-hungry mercenaries who only cared about drawing a paycheck and didn't care about, you know, winning. Now we're criticizing an athlete, apparently, for only caring about winning, not money.

I'm sorry ... what?

Look. I get that there is and always will be a constituency out there that hates free agency, that hates athletes who do what KD did, which is go shopping for the best deal. But that's what free agency is all about. It's what, ahem, the pursuit of happiness is all about.

Durant wanted to play where he had the best chance to win a title, and to play with a team whose style he found appealing. He found that, or thinks he did, in Golden State. Sure, he could have stayed in OKC and had a decent shot at a title there, but for how long? One year, until Russell Westbrook signs with someone else?

No. He chose Golden State because he likes the way they play and likes the guys who are already there. It's not weak. It's not cowardly. It's smart. And if it skews the balance of power in the NBA ... well, I seem to recall the Yankees using the old Kansas City Athletics as a de facto farm team back in the Casey Stengel days, when the Yanks won nine World Series in 13 years. How come no one complained about the Yankees skewing the balance of power in Major League Baseball then?

Simple. Because it was owner-driven, not player-driven. That's what has everyone freaked. That's what's at the core of the criticism. And yet there is fundamentally no difference. Durant acted in his own best interests. He had leverage and he used it. Why is he more selfish or worthy of disdain than any owner who's done the same thing? Or, for that matter, any of us who, like KD, have left one job for a better job?

Every time something like this happens, someone tosses out the old chestnut about how it's a shame no one has any loyalty anymore. But the truth is, hardly anyone ever has. Or perhaps you can explain what kind of loyalty compelled the Baltimore Colts to inform Johnny Unitas by telephone that he'd been traded. The face of the franchise. By telephone.

Yeah, boy. Lots of loyalty there.

And so Kevin Durant choosing Golden State, because he could?

Just that old worm turning. That's all.

The best Fourth of July moment of all time

And, no, it wasn't your doofus neighbor blowing himself up while trying to do something stupid and vaguely obscene with the $9,000 worth of fireworks he bought.

It was that moment in Dodger Stadium over the weekend when this happened.

Because, really, what says Independence Day better than a bald eagle -- the national symbol, for Thomas Jefferson's sake! -- making a break for his independence? An American eagle! Lettin' freedom ring! 'Merica!

Alas, his handlers/oppressors, completely disrespecting the glorious symbolism of the moment, caught him in the parking lot and returned him to captivity.  I guess they thought he would arouse other bald eagles to similar action, like the patriots in Boston. Then they would all meet in Philadelphia to form the United States of Eagles and declare war on the Philadelphia Eagles for being rotten at football, which is about as un-American as you can get.

Or, you know, something like that.

Unfortunately, the handlers/oppressors caught the brave bird, crushing his independent spirit. Five'll get you ten at least one of them was British.

Because, you know, that's just what they do. Damn Brits.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Money for nothing

Because, this morning, the Blob felt like channeling a little Dire Straits. You are welcome.

Which, presumably, the Dallas Mavericks will soon be telling Harrison Barnes, when he thanks them for this. No guarantee he'll sign with the Mavs, of course, but $95 mill is a pretty sweet deal. On the other hand, there may be sweeter deals out there thanks to an NBA free agent market flush with new TV cash that teams are being compelled to spend.

That's because there's not only a salary cap in the NBA, there's a salary floor, and it just got raised through the roof by the new TV deal. And so we have the Lakers handing Cavs bench jockey Timofey Mozgov $64 mill over four years, even though he played all of 25 minutes in the Finals and has career averages of  6.9 points and 5.0 rebounds.

What's significant about the Harrison Barnes offer, then, is not the absurdity of the  numbers but the absurdity of all the network talking poodles yapping about how he was killing his chances in free agency by playing horribly in the Finals. Well, maybe in any other year, but not in this year. Even crashing failures are cashing in this year, which is spurring reactions ranging from knee-slapping amusement to spluttering outrage.

The Blob definitely falls  in the former camp, finding nothing but simple free enterprise at work here. Does Timofey Mozgov deserve $64 million? I don't know, does the CEO of a major corporation deserve double-figure millions for driving his or her company off a cliff? That happens a lot in this country. But we're going to begrudge a basketball player his payday?

Not a chance. This is simply the market paying what the market will bear, just as it always has. Of course it's ludicrous, but so is paying the CEO of Wal-Mart $2,7000 an hour.


To quote Clint Eastwood at the end of "The Unforgiven": Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Losing their religion

And, OK, so the Blob knows the catechism of failure adhered to by the citizens of Cleveland is not really a religion. We just felt like paraphrasing a little R.E.M. this morning.

Then again, things have definitely gotten weird on the shores of Lake Erie. First, the Cavaliers come from 3-1 down in the NBA Finals against the greatest regular-season team in NBA history, ending 52 years of heartache and civic angst and blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda.


Well, now the Indians are acting very non-Indians-like.

In case you weren't paying attention, the Tribe just won their 14th straight game, a club record and not the kind of thing you might expect for a baseball team that's been only intermittently successful over the years. Now they're solidly atop the AL Central, leading the defending World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals, by seven games with a 49-30 record. That's the best record in the American League outside of the Texas Rangers, and the fourth best record in all of baseball.

So, basically, they're really good. And the Cavs are champions. And downtown Cleveland, if you haven't been there lately, is undergoing a renaissance that's been going on for at least a decade. And later this month C-Town hosts the Republican National Convention, which means the eyes of America and large parts of the world will be on them.

Fast forward to this fall, when the Browns will suck again and the Dog Pound will be pounding Alpo, basking in a full-on nostalgia rush.

DOG POUNDER ONE: Man, these guys suck. Remember when all our teams sucked like this?

DOG POUNDER TWO: Yeah. Never forget that bleep-bleep Brian Sipe and that bleep-bleep Elway and that bleep-bleep bleepin' Jose Mesa. Just kick the field goal, Rutigliano! Punch Jordan in the walnuts next time, Ehlo! And bleep-bleep it, Mesa, close the deal!

DOG POUNDER ONE (nodding): Yep, those were the days, all right. And remember Go-Go Joe Charbonneau? Remember Bingo Smith?

DOG POUNDER TWO (reverently): Bingo Smith!

(They sigh blissfully)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Kevin Durant is going to the Pacers

OK, so not really. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention this morning.

At this time, actually, no one knows where Durant is going, because he's apparently met with everyone in the NBA except the Pacers. Well, and maybe the Kings or the 76ers or the Cavaliers, who'd have to blow up their NBA champions to land him, anyway.

That's the thing about NBA free agency: Everyone wants a Kevin Durant, but who wants him bad enough to sell every stick of furniture in the house to get him? Which is why, when all this is done, he'll probably wind up right back in Oklahoma City again. Because where else is he going to go where the setup is as sweet?

Answer: Except for Golden State or possibly San Antonio, hardly anywhere. And Durant's entering that phase of his career that LeBron was in when he jumped to Miami to play with his buds Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade: When the ring, not the bling, becomes the primary motivation.

Bottom line, outside of GS or SA, Durant's got a better chance of hooking the ring in OKC than anywhere else. So he'll likely stick around.

Speaking of D-Wade, by the way, he's apparently contracted a serious case of roaming eye, too. Of course, at 34, his options are somewhat more limited. But the very idea he's looking summons the delicious vision of him linking up with his best bud LeBron for a second go-around -- only this time in Cleveland.

Here's the thing, see: Now that LeBron has brought an NBA title to C-Town, everyone's going to come to him, not the other way around. Of course, the Cavaliers would have to give up too much to sign D-Wade, speaking realistically. But who can resist a scenario in which D-Wade calls a news conference to announce "I'm taking my talents to the Cuyahoga"?

How awesome would that be?