Sunday, December 31, 2017

The year in preview

OK, fine, then. The Blob, just this once, will succumb to hackneyed tradition.

It's a notorious Don't Tell Me I Have To Do That Just Because Everyone Else Does zone, but just this once, as Baby 2018 rides the ball down and crushes feeble old 2017 (sparing America another Mooching Entitlement Hog, as Our Only Available President and the rest of the granny starvers would no doubt see it), the Blob will relent. Well, sort of.

Unlike so many others, it will not look back at 2017. 2017 is so yesterday, or it will be in a matter of hours. No, the Blob chooses only to look forward, taking the famous advice of Satchel Paige. And it will not do so by predicting what's going to happen in 2018.

It's going to predict what won't happen.

And so ... onward:

In January, Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield does not show up for the postgame presser after throwing for 10 gazillion yards and 85 touchdowns in the national championship game. This runs his record in showing up for bowl media availability to 1-4.

He does, however, show up later with a note from Epstein's mom.*

(*Random "Welcome Back, Kotter" reference)

In February, Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not win the Daytona 500, on account of he's retired. Ditto Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Ditto Danica Patrick, who is kinda-sorta retired but not for Daytona, and also not for the Indianapolis 500.

In other news, Baker Mayfield says he "didn't know I was invited" to the Daytona pre-race presser,  but he's real sorry he missed it, and Mrs. Epstein "promises it won't happen again."

In March, Hampton, Bucknell, Coastal Carolina and Siena do not make it to the Final Four. Neither do Middle Tennessee State, Sort-Of-In-The-Middle Tennessee Tech and Not-Quite-In-The-Middle-But-Very-Very-Close Tennessee A&M.

In other news, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski creates a stir during a postgame regional presser by loudly demanding to know where the hell Baker Mayfield is, because "dammit he was supposed to be here for this."

In April, the Browns do not pick first in the NFL Draft, choosing instead to trade the top pick for a sixer of PBR and a really cool model of the Millennium Falcon. They explain that they did this because they wanted to trade down to take Baker Mayfield.

In other news, Mayfield fails to show up for his introductory Browns news conference, immediately going from disgraced-Mrs.-Epstein-note-bearer to a bonafide American hero.

"That boy's got some sense!" America beams.

In May, Danica Patrick does not continue her kinda-sorta retirement by winning the Indianapolis 500. She does, however, qualify and run well and sell a lot of tickets.

In other news, Baker Mayfield does not show up to sing "Back Home Again In Indiana," despite being America's hero. His explanation "Geez, I'm really sorry, I had it on my calendar and everything" is well received, however, on account of America simply assumes he's still hiding from the Browns.

In June, the Cavaliers and Warriors do not meet in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. This is because the NBA cancels the NBA Finals, saying "we've seen this enough" and "the season's dragged on way too long already."

In other news, the Browns receive a note from Epstein's mom which says "Sorry about minicamp. Baker's car broke down. But he's getting it fixed and he'll be there any day, promise."

In July, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton do not combine to hit 47 home runs. This is because they combine to hit 52. The Yankees, meanwhile, are already 25 games ahead in the AL East, prompting thousands of fans to quit watching Major League Baseball because "what's the point?"

In other news, Baker Mayfield does not send the Browns another note from Epstein's mom. He sends a decorative fruit basket with a note that says "Deeply sorry for all the forgetting."

In September, Nick Saban does not snarl and tell the media to get off his damn lawn when they bring up Alabama's preseason No. 1 ranking. This is because he's snarling and telling the media to get off his damn lawn because they've dared to ask him a bunch of other questions, too.

In other news, Baker Mayfield does not do anything, on account of this joke has pretty much run its course and the Blob is bored with it.

In October, the Yankees, who won the East by 35 games, do not fail to go on and win the World Series. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combine for 32 home runs in a four-game sweep of the Dodgers, during which the Yankees outscore L.A. 57-2 and keep themselves interested by playing Candy Crush on their phones in the dugout.

Stanton puts up the high score.

In December, some quarterback or running back from the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or Pac 12 wins the Heisman Trophy. Shocking everyone, he does not fail to show up for the award presentation.

When asked about it later, he says, "I didn't want anyone to think I was that Baker Mayfield guy."

In other news, the Browns immediately cross him off their draft board.

Bigger Ten

So now we know what the Big Ten Conference's best month is, football-wise.

It's December.

You know, that month when they play all those fruit/car care/financial institution bowls, and the Big Ten gets to play the schlubs from all those other sorry conferences.

In case you missed it last night, Wisconsin gave Miami a head start and then smacked it upside the head in the Orange Bowl, and Penn State knocked off Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. (That these bowls, plus the Cotton, should rightly be played on New Year's Day instead of several days before is another Blob discussion for another day. But the universe is out of round when those games aren't on New Year's Day, and traditional second-tier dreck like the Peach, Citrus and Outback are.)

Anyway, Wisky won and Penn State won, and the night before (in the Cotton Bowl) Ohio State laminated USC, and that means the Big Ten is 7-0 in bowl games. Which suggests something a lot of us have suspected all along, which is that it was a better conference this year than the over-hyped SEC.

The SEC had Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, and after that it was Mediocre City. The Big Ten, outside of maybe Ohio State and Wisky, didn't have a 'Bama or Georgia, but it did have Michigan and Michigan State and Penn State and, occasionally, Iowa. Plus a vastly improved Purdue program. Top to bottom, it was a far tougher go than the SEC was.

As it's proved in December. Or at least has seemed to.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A small bowl of something

The Blob usually avoids the All Then Other Bowls season, on account of there's so many Others it can't keep them straight, and also because it's got other fish to pan-sear during the holidays, like binge-watching old Irwin Allen TV series from the 1960s.

(Which plankton monster will the Seaview battle next? Find out on the next exciting episode of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"!)

Anyway ... the various spud, military-industrial complex and chicken joint bowls don't do it for the Blob, generally.

But last night a few interesting things happened ... well, three ... that the Blob feels compelled to mention:

1. In the aptly named Belk Bowl (and, yes, I threw "aptly named" in there just for the heck of it), Wake Forest beat Texas A&M 55-52. And not in overtime. The defensive MVP was the game clock, which successfully stopped both teams from scoring when neither could manage it on their own.

2. In the Cotton Bowl, which used to be one of the biggies but now is just another part of the pre-New Year's Day blur of Belks and the like, Ohio State throttled USC 24-7. USC quarterback Sam Darnold, projected to be one of the top quarterback prospects in the April NFL Draft, played like an enormous foof, presiding over four turnovers. He's now reportedly reconsidering whether he wants to come out or not, which might have been the plan all along.

If so, self-sabotage would seem to be an extreme measure just to avoid possibly being drafted by the Browns. Then again, they are the Browns.

3. Last but not least, New Mexico State beat Utah State in the aptly named Arizona Bowl (because it was played in Arizona).  This was New Mexico State's first bowl win in 57 years. It was also New Mexico State's first bowl appearance in 57 years, which could be some kind of record, although probably not.

Still, it's been since 1960 that New Mexico State played in a bowl. That's so long ago "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" wasn't even on the air yet. It was a much more innocent time.

I mean, we didn't even know about the plankton monsters.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Money for nothing

You'll never go broke betting on our august state legislature to propose cockamamie stuff, like that time a century or so back when it tried to legislate the value of pi.

In that fine tradition, here comes Rep. Milo Smith, R-What The Hell, floating a bill that would require the Indianapolis Colts to offer refunds until the end of the first quarter during home games in which Colts players protest police brutality and racial injustice.

In other words: If you're offended by players kneeling with their heads bowed during the national anthem -- not spitting on the flag, not cursing at it, but (as the Colts did) kneeling in an attitude of prayer -- you should be compensated by the ballclub for your hurt feelings.

That this sort of nonsense gets proposed in a reactionary state like Indiana is not outrageous, because it's not surprising. What would be outrageous is if the lege spends even five minutes on it  when it has actual business to attend to. I don't pay my taxes so Milo Smith and his ilk can grandstand. If you want to do that, go into show business.

There are many things dopey about Rep. What The Hell's proposal, not the least of which is that it's probably not constitutional. It's a government entity threatening to punish peaceful and legitimate protest. That might not even pass the smell test with this Supreme Court.

Here's another thing: Legislation establishes legal precedent, and that legal precedent tends to come back to bite its authors in ways they might not have anticipated. For instance, if I pay for a Colts ticket and I find it offensive that the team is forcing the players to stand by state decree, can I get my money back, too? Can I sue the NFL, as a ticketholder, because I'm offended that Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed for trying to shine a light on injustice?

Of course that would be silly. But, hey: When you open that door, you open that door.

And if you're that offended by players kneeling at a time you've decided is inappropriate?

Stay home.

The War on Christmas is real

OK, so it's not. It's an invention of the Trump Propaganda Network, i.e. Fox "News," which has never turned down an opportunity to make up stuff if there was phony outrage to be exploited.

(Strangely, there actually was a War on Christmas once. According to the esteemed Charles Pierce, it was waged not by Barack Obama but by the Puritans, a rigidly conservative Christian sect who decried its celebration in the Massachusetts Bay Colony because it incorporated certain pagan elements. Not until 1856 did the commonwealth of Massachusetts officially declare Christmas a public holiday. Your history tidbit for today.)

Where was I again?

Oh, yeah. The War on Christmas.

Which the National Football League carried out (on Christmas Eve, no less) against poor Alvin Kamara, who only wanted to spread some seasonal joy. This is strictly forbidden in the NFL, whose notion of propriety has always been mindlessly rigid, and one of the reasons people (OK, me) find it a boring and generally easy-to-ignore entity.

This time it was Kamara, the sensational Saints' rookie, who got the NFL all harrumph-y. It seems he wore a pair of Christmas-themed cleats -- red with little bells, like Christmas stockings -- for the Saints game on Christmas Eve. This violated the NFL's policy against wearing something that isn't in your team colors. And so, rather than let it slide like anyone with a lick of sense would have, the No Fun League fined Kamara $6,000.

You keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine, said commissioner Roger Goodell, presumably.

(Actually, it was George C. Scott who said that, in the 1984 version of "A Christmas Carol." His nephew, Fred, protested "Keep it? But you don't keep it!" After which Scrooge replied "Let me leave it alone, then." Which sounds very Rog-like when you think about it.)

At any rate, like Scrooge's nephew, Kamara refused to let Uncle Rog sour his holiday spirit. Saying "yeah, (the cleats) were worth it," he's declared he's going to start up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to pay off the fine, and anything he raises beyond that will go to buy equipment for local youth sports teams.

Meanwhile, Rog declared that if he could work his will, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips would be boiled in his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!"

Oh, wait. That was George C. Scott, too.

So easy to get them confused.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

(Foster) Farm news

Today's ag report comes to us from California, where Purdue's stock rose, fell and then rose once again in the Foster Farms Bowl, a Free Advertising For Whatever Foster Farms Is production that was a pretty entertaining exhibition of American college football as these things go.

Final score: Boilermakers 38, Arizona 35.

Which means Jeff Brohm's first season as Purdue's coach ends with a winning record (7-6) and a bowl victory.  He did this, mind you, with the same bunch of sadsacks who went 3-8 a year ago. If you're a Purdue alum or fan, this is wonderful news -- and also the worst news ever.

On the one hand, it looks as if Purdue finally found a suitable successor to the late, and legendary, Joe Tiller.

On the other hand, it looks as if Purdue finally found someone else's next head coach.

This is how it works in the upper strata of college football, a purely corporate enterprise whose job it is to make the universities it nominally represents rich. Purdue is part of that strata, as a member of the Big Ten. But it's also not part of that strata, because the upper strata is a multi-layered construct in which some schools are higher on the corporate ladder than others.

In the corporate world, this leads to hostile takeovers of kinda-big companies by stupendously big companies. In the college football world, it leads to stupendously big programs regularly raiding the kinda-bigs for their head coaches.

Purdue, alas, is a kinda-big. It's big-time, but not  BIG-TIME. And that means it's doomed to spend its days fretting when it picks a guy who drives the program into a tree, and fretting when it picks a guy who lifts up the program enough to land on BIG TIME's radar.

And so even though Brohm hadn't even been in West Lafayette for a year, his name briefly surfaced in relation to higher-profile job openings late this fall. And next year, if he continues on the trajectory everyone at Purdue expects, his name will surface again when other higher-profile jobs come open. Eventually, maybe sooner than later, his name will do more than just surface.

Them's the breaks, folks. And so Boiler Up while you can, Purdue.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas Past*

*(Revised to reflect the New England Patriots signing of Steelers linebacker/icon-fallen-out-of-favor James Harrison, who apparently got too old for the Black and Gold to treat him right):

Ben Roethlisberger: "Who and what are you?"

Harrison: "I am the Ghost of Helmet-To-Helmet Hits Past.’  

Ben Roethlisberger: "Long past?"
Harrison (rolling eyes): "No, you idiot! I just left, for God's sake!
Roethlisberger: "You did?"
Harrison (fuming now): "Yes! Like, I don't know, yesterday! What, you didn't even notice I was gone?"
Roethlisberger: "Hey, man. I got enough to deal with without trying to keep track of every Tom, Dick and James that comes through here."
Harrison: "Every-- what the hell? How long were we teammates, ya big dope?"
Roethlisberger: "OK. You're right. For awhile, I guess. Anyway .. where did you go? And why are you here?"
Harrison: "I went to New England. I'm a Patriot now. And be careful, Patsy Boy. I am here for your reclamation. I'm here to show you all the times the Patriots have owned your black-and-gold ass."
Roethlisberger (bristling): "Yeah? Well, wait'll this year. We'll see."
Harrison: "Yes, we wi--  OK. So I won't. I keep forgetting, that's the Ghost of Helmet-To-Helmet Hit Present's deal. No, I'm here to show you what I said before, and also to show you all the times I lit up  unsuspecting quarterbacks when I was a Steeler. That's gonna be you now, Patsy Boy."
Roethlisberger (smirking): "Whatever, dude."
Harrison (rolling his eyes again): "Fine. Don't pay attention to my pictures from the past. Don't watch all those old clips of me blowing guys up in ways that made Roger Goodell want to throw his concussion protocol against the wall and start over again."
(Roethlisberger sighs and looks. Suddenly he sits bolt upright.)
Roethlisberger:  "Why, look! It's old Fezziwig, alive again!"
Harrison: "You know how he died, right?"
Roethlisberger (eyes widening); "You mean ..."
(Harrison grins wickedly. Locks his fingers together, cracks his knuckles.)
Harrison: "Thaaaat's right. Reclamate that, baby." 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

So what did YOU get?

Me, I got a book and the chance to buy more books thanks to a Barnes & Noble gift card.

Why, yes, the Blob is a Good God You're Boring zone.

If I were more adventurous, and less tethered to the constraints of reality, I would have asked for and gotten other stuff. Like, say, new ownership for my Pittsburgh Pirates -- who, after a brief interlude of competence, are currently being poorhoused once again by the present lien-holders.

Ah, well. Maybe all the corporate welfare that just got thrown the leisure class' way will compel the present lien-holders to trickle the windfall down to the baseball team. Speaking of not being tethered to reality.

But, no, in Sportsball World, the gifts to the Blob were a bit more concrete.

For Kevin Durant, for instance, it was being allowed to mug LeBron James with impunity in the late going on Christmas Day, a defensive strategy that allowed the Warriors to hold off the Cavs. And for me?

Well. As one who's increasingly bored by the NFL, it was the opportunity not to watch a single second of pro football on either Sunday or Monday. Matter of fact, I even forgot they were playing games (this is largely because I forgot Sunday was Sunday, being Christmas Eve and all.) There were simply more important matters to attend to over the weekend than watching half the league tank in pursuit of a higher draft position. Sorry about that, Rog.

I will say this, though: The NFL did provide the best moment of the Sportsball Christmas weekend.

That would have been the moment when, after his Chiefs beat the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, their Jolly St. Nick-doppelganger head coach, Andy Reid, showed up dressed for the part.

Well played, Coach. Well played indeed.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

And to all a good night

I know what I could do today.

I could write about the Colts, and what a splendid job they're doing of staying the course toward as high a draft pick as possible.

I could write about how, um, interesting it is that everyone freaks when an African-American father pulls his kid out of school and sends him thousands of miles away to learn how to be a professional basketball player, but no one thinks it odd when white parents pull their kids out of school and send them thousands of miles away to learn how to be professional tennis players (or figure skaters, or gymnasts, etc., etc.)

I could write about why it is Brian Kelly can't seem to keep his kids out of trouble when they're not playing football games.

And of course I could write about whether or not suspending them for the Citrus Bowl is all that much a sacrifice for Notre Dame, seeing as how the Citrus Bowl (and every other bowl but two) is nothing but an exhibition game, anyway.

I will not write about any of that today, however.

It's Christmas Eve. And so I leave you with this, from Charles Dickens, who captures the prevailing sentiment far better than I ever could:

"Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea -- on, on -- until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him."

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and happy holidays to those who do not. Now go forth and make merry. That is an order.

Friday, December 22, 2017

One more stilled voice

Winter again, and here comes a chilled bulletin out of California to go with it.

Dick Enberg is dead.

He died of an apparent heart attack as he was preparing to fly to Boston, and there goes another voice of my generation, another piece of my childhood soundtrack. I can hear him still, if I close my eyes. Every sports fan who grew up in that particular time in America can hear him.

Dick Enberg? Dead?

Oh, my.

And now I look out my window on this gray day-after-the-winter-solstice, and I think how much Dick Enberg was always tied to winter for me. He did so much other stuff -- he was the voice of Wimbledon for 28 years, called 10 Super Bowls, called the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird NCAA title game -- but for me he will always be the voice of a certain winter afternoon in South Bend, always be tied to one moment in  January 1974, and one man.

The moment was Notre Dame 71, UCLA 70, when the Irish snapped UCLA's 88-game winning streak in the madhouse that was then called the ACC. The man was Notre Dame guard Dwight Clay, who hadn't really done anything that day until he rose awkwardly on the baseline to toss in a leaning, falling-out-of-bounds jumper that gave Notre Dame the lead for good.

Enberg's signature "oh, my!" was born that day, at least in my memory. It was exactly the right note to strike for a game in which UCLA was in total control until, shockingly, it was not, as Notre Dame scored the last 12 points to pull off the shocker.

And now Dick Enberg is gone. But that day, that moment, that winter, will never be.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fort Win

And, yes, I know: Fort Wayne teenager Addison Agen didn't win "The Voice."

But she did finish second, which is probably better in the long haul, because everything the Blob has been told by people who know this business suggests she'll have far more autonomy in her career decisions moving forward than she would have if she'd won. So we'll call this a "W", anyway.

And you know what that means?

That means this has been one heck of a week for the Fort.

A 16-year-old Fort Wayne kid captivated America on national TV.

IPFW's men's basketball team shocked Indiana for the second year in a row, this time in Assembly Hall, this time in a 20-point blowout.

And over on the southwest side of town, the University of Saint Francis Cougars made it back-to-back NAIA national titles in football.

And they said all we had here was a zoo, some top-drawer minor-league sports and that street-with-three-names thing.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Again, anyone?

You'd think this couldn't happen again.

You'd think Indiana would have learned its lesson after last year, when it got all patronizing with its younger sibling up there in Fort Wayne, patted it fondly on the head ("Well, aren't you just the cutest thing, trying to play basketball with us") and got its hand taken off at the wrist.

You'd think the Hoosiers would have learned the other essential lesson here, which is that if you're playing IPFW you have to guard the 3-point line, because if you don't the Mastodons will make you pay. And you'd think they'd have learned that other essential lesson, which is that they should have recruited the Scott brothers harder, because they've brought the candy-stripe pants boys a truckload of hurt every time they've squared off.

Stat of the Hoosiers season so far, after IPFW 92, Indiana 72: Between the two of them, Brenton Scott (24) and Bryson Scott (26) have dropped 50 on IU.

Corollary stat of the Hoosiers season: And as a result, between the two of them, Brenton's team (Indiana State) and Bryson's (IPFW) have beaten Indiana in Assembly Hall by a combined 41 points.

The Sycamores tagged the Hoosiers by 21 back in November, hitting virtually everything they tossed up. Last night, the Mastodons beat the Hoosiers for the second year in a row -- this time resoundingly, with Kason Harrell adding a career-high 28 to Scott's 26 and the Dons absolutely killing it from the arc, dropping 17 3s on the night.

Everybody said you have to guard the 3-point line against the Dons, because they're among the country's best from there. Clearly "everybody" did not include the Hoosiers, who apparently figured there was no way little brother could possibly beat them again, especially in the Hall.

You'd think they'd have learned not to condescend like that, after last year.

You'd think they'd have respected the Dons a bit more, especially their coach, Jon Coffman, who's pretty damn good at what he does in case you haven't been paying attention.

You'd think.

They didn't.

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 15

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the holly-jolly Blob feature of which Burl Ives has said "It's the best time of the year because this stupid thing is almost over," and also "I don't know if it will snow, but if does I hope it buries this thing in a 10-foot drift":

1. It's Tuesday morning, and that was still a touchdown.

2. Although the New England Patriots will no longer need anything under the tree.

3. Silver bells ... silver bells ...

4. It's concussion protocol time in the city ...

5. The Col-- oh, never mind.

6. The Brow-- ditto.

7. It's Tuesday morning and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is still picking up the pieces.

8. Here's an arm. Here's a leg. Here's part of Russell Wilson, and something with Todd Gurley's treadmarks all over it.

9. Of course Aaron Rodgers should play, even though there's no reason to now.

10. Saxophone. Or guitar. Just not football.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Catching hell

Look, I know what a football play is. I saw one just a few minutes ago.

On video, I watched for about the sixth time as Jesse James of the Steelers wrapped his hands around the football, took a couple steps and then lunged toward the end zone with the ball extended out in front of him, still firmly grasped in both hands.

The football broke the plane. Then it came out of James' hands when he hit the ground -- which was irrelevant, because the play was over as soon as the football broke the plane.

Ergo, touchdown. In every football universe known to man.

Oh, wait. I forgot about the NFL.

I forgot about the NFL because it exists in a galaxy far, far away, where apparently Yoda decides that a touchdown you may have seen, but see correctly you did not. And so the zebras reversed the call, and the touchdown came off the board, and the Steelers win they did not. The Patriots won, if you want to call it that.

(Obvious headline: "Jesse James Gets Robbed." I mean, come on, it's just sitting out there, right?)

Anyway ... you can say the Patriots won. But, actually, the NFL rulebook did, if you want to get technical about it.

Let's do that.

Let's point out the most heinous thing about this heist, which is that the officials actually got the call right, according to the NFL rulebook. That's the real issue here: The NFL rulebook does not itself know what a catch looks like. You and me and Buddy Bill in Hog Wallow, Alabama, know what a catch looks like, but the NFL rulebook does not.

This is among many problems the NFL has that remain un-remedied, which means it's probably not going to be remedied anytime soon. The NFL has bigger fish to fry, like instituting more rules to keep its star quarterbacks from being killed, forcing upon its players its idea of patriotism (or rather, Our Only Available President's idea of patriotism) and overpaying Roger Goodell. Re-introducing common sense to what's a catch and what isn't is presumably way down the list.

And so, no, that wasn't a touchdown last night.

I mean, who are you gonna believe? The rulebook, or your lying eyes? 

Sunday, December 17, 2017


You go back to 2014 now, as the Saint Francis Cougars send their joy again into the Florida night. That's where all this begins. That's where something that never happens in the arc of a football coach's life -- something that is simply unheard of unless you are bucking for legendhood -- actually happened.

What happened was, a 63-year-old football coach not only didn't lose a step as his career presumably wound down. He gained one. Or perhaps three or four.

That coach's name is Kevin Donley, and, after a 6-5 season in 2014, he could have stepped aside to undiminished applause. The football program he started from scratch on a lovely little campus on the southwest side of Fort Wayne had become one of the NAIA's consistent powers, and it happened in a hurry. From 2-8 in their inaugural season, the Cougars jumped to 8-3 and a conference title the next fall. And then, for the next nine years, they won fewer than 10 games only once, playing in three national title games and dominating their conference.

And by 2014?

The Cougars were playing their home games on Kevin Donley Field. Its namesake had been coaching for 36 years, the last 16 at Saint Francis. He was an institution in Fort Wayne, revered as much for the way his program represented his university and his city -- winning always was a goal, but winning the right way was the goal -- as for the titles and success it piled up.

So, yeah, he could have walked away with the gold watch and more. Instead ...

Instead, he started over.

He took the program back to the basics, and now we can see the results: 38-2 across the last three seasons, a 22-game winning streak, and, of course, two straight NAIA national titles for the lovely little campus on the southwest side.

The Cougars got the second title last night, beating previously unbeaten Reinhardt (Ga.) 24-13 despite losing two of their top receivers during the game. No matter. They scored 24 points in eight minutes early, then turned it over to the defense, which shut down Reinhardt whenever it had to and forced it into uncharacteristic mistakes.

And over on the Saint Francis sideline stood Kevin Donley, watching his career go from superbly accomplished -- he's the NAIA's alltime wins leader -- to legendary. And now you realize what a disservice that observation might be, because maybe it was legendary all along.

All this begins in 2014, see. But where it really begins is long before that, on a bright winter's day in 1997, when Donley and a certain sportswriter who'd known him for two decades sat across from one another in a westside restaurant, and Donley laid out his vision for the Saint Francis program. Where it begins, perhaps, is on another afternoon two years later, on a football field in Canton, Ohio.

It was the fall of 1999, and the Saint Francis Cougars had just won their eighth game of the season. In only their second season of existence, in only their 20th game,  they'd beaten Walsh on the road to clinch the conference title and qualify for the NAIA playoffs.

"How do you even put this into words?" the certain sportswriter asked Kevin Donley.

Donley blinked. He blinked again. He's a quiet man publicly, not given to histrionics in his dealings with the media. But now his reserve faltered and the emotion of the moment overtook him.

"We won some big ballgames ...:" is all he could get out.

No one's ever won more.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Your non-debate for today

So this week came the news that Devin Hester, who inspired fans of opposing teams to scream "Why are you kicking to him!?" at their TV sets more than any player in NFL history, has decided to retire.

Immediately this began the debate over whether Hester, who made his bones as an NFL player almost exclusively as a kick-return specialist, should be a candidate for Canton.

To all right-thinking individuals out there, this was not much of a debate.

Two points to consider:

1. No one in NFL history returned more kicks, punts or turnovers for touchdowns than Hester, who had 20 total in 11 seasons. His 14 punt-return touchdowns are also the most ever.

2. Ray Guy is in the Hall of Fame.

Which is to say, any debate about whether or not you could put specialists in the Hall went out the window the moment the NFL inducted Guy, a punter. Also Morten Andersen and Jan Stenerud, placekickers.


He's the greatest return man in NFL history.

He's in.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New math fun

Paul George got the W last night in his return Indianapolis, shrugging off a steady rain of boos to lead the NBA's newest super team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, to a typically awesome 100-95 victory over the poor devalued Indiana Pacers.

And ...

And now a short pause while you all splutter "What?! Why, that's not even close to being true!"

Well ... no. No it isn't.

The real truth is, the Blob just wanted to see if you were awake this morning. And since you apparently are, let's get down to some other truth.

Which is, Paul George went 3-of-14, scored 12 points and had about as much to do with the Thunder's win as the guy on the bench handing out towels and water bottles.

Also, the Thunder are not "awesome." They're a horribly unbalanced team -- who thought it was a good idea to put three guys together (PG, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony) who all need the basketball in their hands? -- that's 13-14 and wouldn't make the playoffs if they started today.

The Pacers, on the other hand, are 16-12 even with last night's loss, and currently sit fifth in the East. The two guys they got from the Thunder for George, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, combined for 27 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals last night. Oladipo is having a better season statistically than George did for the Pacers last year, and he's the linchpin for a tight, cohesive group that loves to push tempo -- and, consequently, is hugely fun to watch.

Conclusion: Sometimes there really is such a thing as addition by subtraction.

Ain't New Math a blast?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Nattering nabobs

... of negativism.

Wasn't that the old Spiro Agnew line?

Thinking of that today, listening to all the criers of doom over the fate of those poor Ball brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo. Why, their father is messing with their futures! He's ruining their lives! He's ... why, he's ...

Circumventing the accepted process for getting to the NBA!

That, boys and girls, is what's actually behind all the Nattering from the Nabobs, and don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. LaVar Ball may or may not be rolling the dice with his kids' futures, but they're his dice to roll. And, frankly, it looks from here like signing LiAngelo and LaMelo to contracts to play pro ball in Lithuania isn't much of a dice-roll.

Because, really, what's the worst that can happen? They spend the year or two they would have spent in college basketball's waiting room (because in the era of one-and-done, that's all college buckets is) actually making money for playing basketball? As opposed to what, feigning being a "student-athlete" while not getting paid?

Look, best case, they spend some time in Europe and get drafted into the NBA, or sign as free agents. In case you haven't noticed, more than one foreign player has taken that exact route. Why wouldn't it work for two American kids, should they prove to be as good as Daddy's advertised?

Ah, but if that happens ...

Well. Then suddenly college basketball no longer is the only path to the League for an American one-and-done. And that likely has a lot of college coaches/athletic directors swallowing hard, because there goes a piece of their market share, not to say their meal tickets. And that's why so many of the Nabobs are Nattering, because not a few of them work for entities that pay large coin for college basketball broadcast rights.

Which means their market share's on the line, too.

And if it doesn't happen?

Worst case, LiAngelo and LaMelo spend some time in Europe making money playing basketball. Then they can come back and get their degrees. Or they stay in Europe and get their degrees. How is this Dad ruining their lives, again?

Please explain.   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A brief thoughts on NFL Week 14

And now this week's edition of the holiday-spirited Blob, of which the War on Christmas foofs have said "You hate Christmas!", and also "Say Christmas! Say it!", and also "And while we're at it, those cups at Starbucks are EVIL!":

1. Jay Cutler > Tom Brady.

2. (Well, he was. For one night.)

3. Carson Wentz > Tom Brady.

4. (Well, this year. Until Sunday.)

5. Carson Wentz' knee > Carson Wentz.

6. (On Sunday.)

7. Meanwhile, the Browns!

8. Brownsed again!

9. Snow > the Colts.

10. (Also, almost everyone in the league > the Colts.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Viewer discretion revised

And now some happy news from the world of golf, just in time for Christmas.

(No, not the return of Tiger. That remains a work in progress. Or regress. Stay tuned for further developments, or un-developments.)

In the meantime, the rulesmakers-that-be in golf have decided that the reign of the meddling couch potato is officially ended. They've passed a rule that says TV viewers will no longer be able to call in  infractions, thereby affecting the outcome of tournaments from Whoville or Keokuk or the rings of Saturn, for that matter. The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, European PGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America have all given the new measure a thumbs up.

This is, needless to say, a rare triumph of common sense for OG (aka, Organized Golf), which has some of the most head-scratching rules in existence. By far the worst, however, was the notion that Joe Barcalounger could spot something on his TV set, call the golf course and get a golfer penalized (and in some cases, disqualified.)

No other sport had such a lunatic provision, on account of no other sport was crazy enough to regard the fans as anything but fans. It's simply impossible to imagine a scenario in which Chester Cheesehead in his Aaron Rodgers jersey could say "Hey, that's pass interference!", pick up his phone and get some poor Bears defensive back flagged.

Hey, look, Martha! I just got us a first down!

Absurd on its face. But not in golf, where the equivalent happened all the time.

Not anymore, though. Now the rules officials will monitor the video broadcast themselves, something they frankly should have been doing all along. (And why weren't they? Who knows. It's golf.) And if they miss an infraction?

Well, hey. Missed calls happen in every other sport. Why should golf be different?

I mean, anymore than it already is.

Glorious imperfection, Part Deux

Remember all that romantic goo the Blob spilled out yesterday about Army and Navy playing in the snow, and how it was the most awesome thing ever?

Add additional piles of snow (plus wind!) and you've got Bills-Colts, which was played in your classic Buffalo blizzard on Sunday. The stuff was ankle-deep, which meant little clouds of it swirled around players' feet as they churned ahead. Somehow Kelvin Benjamin caught a touchdown pass in the whiteout conditions, sending a huge spray of white stuff flying when he touched down. A Colts punt returner was actually tackled by the snow, fielding the punt, wading forward three or four yards and collapsing in a heap when he tried to change direction.

It was absolutely horrid football. It was also (to coin a phrase) damn glorious football -- football the way it was meant to be played before the invention of sterile climate-controlled Domeball, where the elements  became part of the strategy just like your opponents' offensive or defensive sets.

Only things missing?

Big clompy snowboots and huge-ass mittens. Oh, and those goofy earflap hats like Flick wore in "A Christmas Story."

Ah, winter.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Glorious imperfection

It looked, for all the world, like what happens in your backyard on the morning of Thanksgiving. Snow tumbled and swirled and sifted down from a leaden sky, sugaring the field of play out there in Philadelphia. They'd plowed out the hashes and yard-lines, so when you saw the gridiron in the overhead shots, it was an actual grid. And the football?

Well. It wasn't exactly Alabama-Auburn.

No, this was throwback football, leather-hats-and-a-hearty-punch-in-the-schnozz football, and it took the game back to the turn of the century. And, no, not this century.

Army and Navy took it all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt and the Wright Brothers, to Jim Thorpe 'n' them dazzling America with that newfangled invention, the off-tackle run. The two quarterbacks, Ahmad Bradshaw for Army and Malcolm Perry for Navy, kept taking direct snaps and plowing through the slush into the grunting mass at the center of the line of scrimmage. Bradshaw lugged it 21 times for 94 yards. Perry hauled it 30 times for 250 yards.

Navy attempted two passes, neither of which were thrown by Perry. Bradshaw threw one -- an end-over-end quacker straight out of 1911 that some Army receiver somehow caught 20 yards downfield.

It was ugly. It was imperfect. It was your cousin Mike throwing to your uncle Tim out in the snowy barnyard before the big chowdown. It was ... damn glorious.

As a recovering sportswriter, I faithfully make only one college football game a year appointment viewing, and it is Army-Navy. Part of that is because I love the pageantry, love watching the corps of cadets and the midshipmen march in lockstep into the stadium. And part of it is because Army-Navy is the epitome of what college football is supposed to be, and in fact used to be before the TV and apparel money turned it into the gray engine of commerce it is today.

In that world, we have grown so used to football as an exercise in technical expertise that we've all but forgotten what it looks like when played by normal human beings. Army-Navy shows us that every year, and that's why it's special. It's extraordinary  young men playing very ordinary football, because those extraordinary young men have better things to do down the road. And so, maybe more than anyone else in college football, they play in service to their institutions, not their institutions' bottom line.

For them, after all, the bottom line comes later. In a field of strife that looks nothing like a well-ordered grid, under circumstances that carry far, far more weight.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Extending chaos

They carted rookie sensation Alvin Kamara off the field last night with a likely concussion, the latest casualty in the NFL's war on its players. The Shield's regular Thursday Night Massacres have come under increasing fire from those players -- most recently last night, when Kamara's teammate and one of the league's leading father figures, Drew Brees, blamed Thursday night's long list of injuries on the obvious fact that the NFL shouldn't be making teams play four days apart.

It does so because there's money in it, and the bottom line remains the bottom line for America's pre-eminent athletic corporate entity. This would seem to be at jarring odds with the league's alleged (and newfound) commitment to player safety, except that this, too, is about the bottom line. It's a wholly transparent public relations ploy designed to address growing concerns that the NFL product has simply become too damn dangerous for a civilized society.

The upshot is you have a league talking out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, it will defend a practice (Thursday night football) that clearly puts its players in peril. On the other, it talks a lot of noise  about player safety, fining or suspending miscreants for head-to-head shots that, let's face, at times are unavoidable when very large, very fast humans are flying around in a confined space at warp speed.

Fact is, you can't make football at the professional level less violent. Violence, in fact, is its main selling point, because our aforementioned civilized society isn't actually all that civilized. And so the more the NFL is buffeted by that reality, the worse the product becomes, and the fewer people watch it.

And that doesn't even factor in the recent player protests -- an eloquent and principled cry against obvious societal wrongs (racial injustice and police brutality) which was deliberately misrepresented as "anti-America" by Our Only Available President and various other self-serving jackals.

So now you're trying to sell a confused and unappealing product to people who are turned off by it because, yes, it's a confused and unappealing product. And, yes, because they think the players are either A)"disrespecting America" or B) being made out to be cartoon villains by faux-patriotic political hacks.

And how does the NFL react to all that?

By throwing another horse-choking contract extension at Roger Goodell, the man who presides over this whole mess.

Good thinkin' there, guys. Goood thinkin'.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rocky Topped. Finally.

And so, after a couple of weeks of tripping over footstools and bumping into things in the dark trying to find the light switch, the University of Tennessee has a new football coach.

His name is Jeremy Pruitt, and he's the defensive coordinator at Alabama. Tennessee also interviewed guys from Auburn and Georgia, which means they hit all the Who's Hot In The SEC Right Now venues while being turned down by just about everyone outside the SEC.

If nothing else, Pruitt's a safe hire, touching all the requisite safe-hire bases. He's 43 years old. He's one of the top DCs in college football. He's apparently a crackerjack recruiter. And, of course, apparently the fan base is OK with him, given that it was allowed to nix Greg Schiano, Tennessee's first choice.

Just once, though, don't you wish one of these schools with nothing to lose (and let's face it, Tennessee has nothing to lose it hasn't already lost at this point) would do something daring instead of staying in the same timid, boring lane?

I mean, I hear this guy's available.

Now THAT would be daring.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Business decisions

Say this much for LaVar Ball: When he burns the playbook, that puppy is cinders.

America's most annoying/arrogant/narcissistic sports dad pulled his second son, LiAngelo, out of UCLA this week, less than a month after he and two other knucklehead ballers were arrested and indefinitely suspended for shoplifting in China (and after Our Only Available President was allowed to believe he "saved" them from the iron clutches of Chinese justice).

True to the Book of LaVar, he did it without consulting anyone on the UCLA coaching staff. The plan, if it can be called that, is to spend this winter prepping LiAngelo for the NBA Draft -- which seems laughable when you consider LiAngelo is by all accounts the least talented of the three Ball brothers, and thus the least likely to be snatched up next June.

In which case ...

Well. This is where it gets interesting.

Because what if this actually works, of a fashion? What if LiAngelo spends all winter in private workouts, then gets drafted? And even if he doesn't -- the far more likely scenario -- what if he then winds up playing overseas somewhere, because there's more money to be made in more places playing pro buckets than there's ever been?

What sort of chills do you think will go down the spines of college coaches if that happens?

If that happens, after all, suddenly you've got a business model for future basketball prodigies that bypasses college basketball altogether. And it will be college basketball's own doing, because (just like college football) it's become a corporate enterprise entirely driven by business interests and not by the academic mission of the universities it purports to represent.

Sure, you can bash LaVar Ball to a fare-thee-well for selfishly messing with his kids' futures, but what if he's not doing that at all? What if he's simply following a path laid out for him, inadvertently or otherwise, by coaches and administrators and everyone else involved in the power structure of big-time college athletics?

You've got coaches now, after all, who make more money off their side deals than they do for molding the character and education of their student-athletes. You've got coaches who regularly bail on their commitment to their universities and the kids they've recruited because a better business opportunity -- i.e., a more prestigious, higher-paying job -- has come along. Why should we expect those "student-athletes" not to follow their example?

This is, after all, supposed to be about getting a college education. And so when Jimbo Fisher leaves Florida State for Texas A&M -- a lateral move at best he made simply because A&M threw $75 million at him -- it's the ultimate teachable moment.

It was a purely business decision purely motivated by self-interest, because Fisher abandoned his Florida State kids before they'd even completed their season. And so now we have high-profile players  starting to do the same thing, choosing not to participate in their schools' bowl games in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. In so doing, they're merely making the same sort of business decision Fisher just made, and that drives major college athletics as a whole.

Yes, sir. Sounds like these student-athletes have learned their lessons pretty well.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 13

And now this week's edition of the very merry Blob feature, The NFL In So Many Words, which concussion protocol experts have labeled "excessively violent," "glaringly enamored of helmet-to-helmet contact", and "a cavalcade of cheap shots and generally sorry-ass behavior":

1. And speaking of generally sorry-ass behavior ... Rob Gronkowski!

2. Who, just like Tom Brady did not deflate those footballs, did not deliver a blatant cheap shot to the head of Buffalo's Tre'Davious White decades after the whistle, no matter what your lying eyes told you.

3.  In other news, Robbie Gould!

4. Wasn't good enough to kick for the Bears.

5. Was good enough to come back to Chicago and kick the Bears in the nether regions. Like, five times.

6. Mike Pagel. Gary Padjen. Matt Bouza. Dean Biasucci. Ray Donaldson. George Wonsley.

7. Sorry. Just reminiscing about the 1984-86 Colts.

8. Who also had three straight losing seasons, just like the current Colts.

9.  But at least Robbie Gould never returned to kick them in the nether regions five times.

10. (Not to rub it in or anything, Chicago.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Silverdome lives! (A transcript)

And now, thanks to the Blob's awesome powers of investigation and procurement, here is the transcript of the moment when the demolition of the Pontiac Silverdome failed to demolit (or something) on Sunday morning:

DEMOLITION GUY NO. 1: 3 ... 2 ... 1... mark ...

(Rumbling sound. Static. More static.)

DEMOLITION GUY 1: Son of a ...!


MATT MILLEN: This is NOT my fault!


Let's go bowling!

So all 41,237 college bowl games are set, including the two bowl games that have been hijacked by the College Football Playoff, which is how we wound up with Georgia and Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Which ain't right.

(I know, I know. I'm old. I'm out of touch. I need to go back inside and quit shaking my bony fist at those damn kids.)

(But, dammit, a Rose Bowl without either a Big Ten or Pac 12 school in it ... ain't right.)

Anyway, Alabama filled out the CFP Only Four, just like pretty much everyone who doesn't live in Columbus, Ohio, predicted. This allowed the grassy knoll crowd to point out that ESPN dropped a wad of cash on the CFP folks for broadcast rights, and the SEC and ACC happen to be ESPN partners, too. The Big Ten, on the other hand, is not. And so -- hey, look! -- three of the four finalists are SEC or ACC schools. Gee, how'd that happen?

(Disclaimer: The Blob is not saying it buys into this conspiracy theory. It's not saying there was some quid pro quo involved. Of course there wasn't. Probably.)

But enough about the CFP. The Blob would rather talk about the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, which is played on Dec. 21 and involves Temple and Florida International.

The Blob doesn't know anything about Temple or Florida International, but that's not the point. The point is, years after the Poulan Weed Eater folks stopped sponsoring the Independence Bowl, there's finally another bowl named after a lawn implement. How cool is that?

And while we're on the subject of cool, how about that Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl?

No, I'm not making that up! See: Dec. 19, Florida Atlantic vs. Akron. The winner gets a bowl of tart cherries or something.

I don't know what the winner of the Dollar General Bowl (Dec. 23, Toledo vs. Appalachian State) gets, but it's probably not that good. Ditto the winner of the Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26, Northern Illinois vs. Duke), on account of the Blob doesn't know what Quick Lane is. Ditto the Walk-On's Independence Bowl (Dec. 27, Southern Miss vs. Florida State).

The winner of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 22, Wyoming vs. Central Michigan), on the other hand, probably gets a bowl of potatoes. You can do a lot with a bowl of potatoes. They're very tasty.

As for the rest of the bowls,  it's the usual collection of banks and vehicles and fruits and veggies. Also chicken sandwiches and chain steakhouses. Also the Foster Farms Bowl, in which Purdue plays Arizona on Dec. 27.

Go Boilers!

Buy that Farm!

(Footnote: Quick Lane, the Blob has learned after the scantiest of research, is a tire-and-auto-repair place. Walk-On's is short for Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar, a restaurant chain in Louisiana and Texas. The food pictures look quite yummy.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Simple math

So it's Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and ... hmm.

That's where we are this morning, a few short hours or so from the last College Football Playoff poll, the College Football Playoff poll that will decide who plays for the College Football Playoff National Title, which the Blob insists on calling the "College Football Playoff National Title" simply because it likes saying "College Football Playoff."

(And, no, not actually. Ironically. Because the Blob thinks "College Football Playoff" is the most unimaginative name ever. What, you couldn't throw a flower or a root vegetable or a car rental joint in there? You couldn't call it The Only Four? Or the Fabulous Four? Or the Only Power Five Teams Need Apply Four, Plus Notre Dame If It Ever Gets Good Again?)

Anyway ... it's going to be a juicy little parlor game, trying to decide between Alabama and Ohio State for that last playoff berth. And it is between Alabama and Ohio State. Central Florida may be unbeaten, but it's a directional school. Only Power Five teams need apply, remember?

So it's 'Bama vs. Ohio State, and, really, it's simple math from where the Blob sits. 'Bama gets in, even if it didn't really beat anyone of consequence this fall. It was No. 5 in the last CFP poll. Its only loss was to Auburn, which lost to Georgia in the SEC title game. And it didn't lose Saturday, because it didn't play.

Ohio State, on the other hand, had one shot at leaping from No. 8 in last week's poll into the top four. It had to beat No. 4 Wisconsin like a dozen egg whites. The Buckeyes didn't. They won by six points, 27-21, and were outscored 11-6 in the second half. And no matter how much they would like you to forget what happened in Iowa City, it happened. Iowa beat them like a dozen egg whites.

Hard to see the committee jumping a two-loss Ohio State four spots over 'Bama, even though Auburn's loss hurt the Crimson Tide's resume a bit. And it's not like Ohio State can use the "But we won the Big Ten" argument, seeing how it had no problem with last year's Big Ten champion, Penn State, being snubbed in favor of the Buckeyes.

That precedent worked to their advantage last year. It will work against them this year.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Shakin' that money tree

So Jimbo Fisher is off to Texas A&M, where the Aggies will pay him $75 million over the next 10 years to coach a bunch of college kids who get in trouble with the NCAA if, say, they sell the bowl swag the NCAA itself said they could have.

The world is a crazy place, and that's a fact.

For example: There are piles and piles of cash in high-end college football, but no one in charge seems to regard that as sullying the academic mission of the university until the generators of that cash try to rake a little for themselves. Then, oh, heavens does the lucre turn filthy. Words like "integrity" and "education" get bandied about. We're told student-athletes who try to cash in on their status are rank opportunists taking advantage of a system that already rewards them with a "free" education.

And yet somehow rank opportunists like Jimbo Fisher who cash in on their status aren't taking advantage of the system. That's because that is the system.

And so he bails on Florida State, and his players and staff, before the season is even over, and no one bats an eye. It's not like he's Christian McCaffrey -- who, to a fair bit of condemnation, decided to pass on Stanford's bowl game last year to prepare for the NFL Draft. After all, McCaffrey was abandoning his team to secure his own selfish future. Fisher was merely ... abandoning his team to secure his own selfish future.

You see the difference, right?

Of course you don't. That's because you don't look at the world through squinty eyes while standing on your head. High-end college athletics has already patented that pose.

Want to know the kicker to the whole Jimbo Fisher saga, for instance?

Buried deeply in the story announcing Fisher's signing was this gem: The man he replaces, Kevin Sumlin, was making a mere $35 million across six years. Which sounds like a gargantuan deal until you consider Fisher's stupendously gargantuan deal. It also means he'll walk away with a $10.4 mill buyout.

But if one of his players tries to sell that watch he got for playing in the Texas Bowl last year?

Oh, heavens.What a stain on college football that would be.

Friday, December 1, 2017

He's back! (Maybe)

Tiger Woods played his first round of competitive golf in almost a year yesterday, shooting a 3-under 69 in the first round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where he last shot a competitive round in the 60s.

Not sure he goes on to win the Masters next spring, off of that. But you know some people will take it that way.

There has always been this impulse to jump the gun on Tiger, particularly after he stopped being Tiger. The reality is, he's a pro golfer in his 40s with chronic back issues. Yet he also remains the game's most marketable commodity, even in absentia.

No one has ever bumped TV numbers the way Tiger did just by showing up and yanking his driver out of the bag, and one suspects that will be true even if he's never again a Sunday threat. That's something no one wants to think about, of course. Tiger's made a lot of other golfers rich these past two decades, a debt today's glut of young megastars readily acknowledges. And so it's entirely natural to want to think of him as back, instead of what he actually is.

Which is, back until the back goes out again.

Make no mistake, it's probably going to. Or something related to it will. And so to think he'll ever be a force again in competitive golf is the most wishful of thinking, because it's far more likely he's going to get hurt again before that ever happens.

In short, he is what he is: A guy with a bad back who's less than a decade from being eligible for the Senior Tour. The glory days are done.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Progress report

There are few verities more eternal than the one that says if you live long enough, there's nothing you eventually won't see.

And so to Assembly Hall in Bloomington last night, where No. 1 Duke rolled Indiana as expected, winning by 10 points despite missing 14 of 17 from Arcville and needing a 17-4 endgame to put the Hoosiers away. None of that was particularly significant, however. What was significant is the way some Indiana basketball fans lapsed into Indiana Football Fan mode.

You know: Hey, look! We only lost to Duke by 10! And we were only down by four at halftime! Woo-hoo!

Of course, diminished expectations are not a new theme for IU hoops; they tend to follow diminished returns if the diminished returns stick around long enough. But it's still something of a shock to hear some people (not all, surely, but some) regard losing by 10 to Duke as progress.

Even if it's demonstrably true it was.

Fact is, that clearly was not the same Indiana team last night that got carpet-bombed by Indiana State on the same floor to open the season. This suggests the troops are getting used to doing things the Archie Miller Way. And that in turn suggests, as many of us have maintained all along, that the Archie Miller Way is going to work.

Not well enough yet to beat a No. 1 team, even when the No. 1 team doesn't play particularly well. But well enough that it can at least compete with that No. 1 team in a way it couldn't compete with an Indiana State not even a month ago.

Look. Indiana is not going to be competitive against top teams every night this winter, because that's just not the way it works in a new regime's first season. Its 3-point shooters are still going to misfire the way they did last night, when IU went 5-for-21 from the arc itself. Its defensive intensity is occasionally going to go wanting. But last night at least indicated there will be fewer nights like that as the season progresses.

So, yeah. The Hoosiers lost to No. 1 Duke by only 10 points. And it's still November. Woo-hoo, indeed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The stain that will not fade

Mike Gundy is staying in Oklahoma, which must be infuriating to those who believe "Rocky Top" is the greatest song ever written, and Tennessee orange is the greatest shade of orange ever conceived, and how the heck could anyone choose Stillwater, Okla., over the beauty and cosmopolitan bonhomie of Knoxville, Tenn.?

But Gundy decided Stillwater and his alma mater, Oklahoma State, was where he'd rather stay, and now the coaching search in Knoxville is veering alarmingly close to parody. Someone, after all, painted "Bring Lane home" on Tennessee's landmark rock -- Lane, of course, being Lane Kiffin, who  had to have a police escort out of town after dumping Tennessee to go shack up with USC.

That's not the most alarming thing to be painted on the rock recently, however.

That would be what was painted there at the height of the horrendously botched Greg Schiano non-hire, when some UT fan accused Schiano of facilitating child rape because he was an assistant coach at Penn State during the whole sordid Jerry Sandusky business.

This was character assassination at its worst, and it didn't end there. Several renegade social media types fanned the flames, even though the only thing linking Schiano to Sandusky's crimes was Mike McQueary's uncorroborated allegation from a 2015 deposition. In it, he said, without any concrete proof, that Schiano, who was an assistant at Penn State from 1990-95, had witnessed Sandusky assaulting a child in the shower.

Schiano has repeatedly denied it, and subsequent vetting by multiple employers have uncovered not a scrap of evidence to support McQueary's story. That included Tennessee, which nonetheless swiftly backed away from an agreement in principle with Schiano when its alumni began yowling about Penn State and Sandusky and the fact Schiano was there when it all went down.

Undoubtedly part of that was because Tennessee has its own issues in this area, having just settled a lawsuit brought by multiple women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted by Tennessee athletes, and that Tennessee officials hurriedly swept the alleged incidents under the rug. But part of it is also the stain that still clings to anyone who had any association with Penn State during the Sandusky years.

The mob mentality that rose up around Schiano as a result of that stain is both shameful and more than a little scary. Hysteria trumping due process, or at least the presumption of innocence, always is. But it's also abundantly clear Schiano was paying the price for the cavalier manner in which Penn State handled the Sandusky affair.

Fairly or not, its officials came off as more concerned about their football program and Joe Paterno's legacy than protecting children from a predator, and, long after Sandusky's crimes were exposed, some associated with the university continued to indicate they just didn't get it. That included a Penn State trustee who last spring wrote in an email to "The Chronicle of Higher Education" that he was "running out of sympathy" for Sandusky's victims.

 One can scarcely get more tone deaf than that, unless one currently lives in the White House. Or utter words with such lasting, haunting effect.

As both Schiano, and Tennessee, can indirectly attest.

Update: Reports now have Tennessee pursuing Purdue's Jeff  Brohm. Reverse Kiffin on the way?

Bench warrant

Because the Blob is a responsible quasi-journalistic entity that practices restraint in all official matters, I went ahead and looked up the New York Football Giants' record this morning.

I mean, they'd just benched their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback (Eli Manning) for, um, Geno Smith (aka, Another Guy Who Is Not As Good As Colin Kaepernick).  The interwhatsis was outraged (no different than any other day, but still.) But I was still willing to give the Jints the benefit of the doubt.

Surely they were benching Eli Manning because maybe by changing things up --maybe -- they still had a shot at the playoffs. Right?

Uhhhh ... no.

No, they are 2-9. It's going to be December on Friday. Their season is over. It is ashes, dust, done like dinner.

So why bench Eli now? And not to give rookie Davis Webb a good look, which you could at least  halfway defend, but to go with an utter retread like Geno Smith?

There is no galaxy far, far away enough where this remotely makes sense, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And head coach Ben McAdoo is as desperate as they come. He knows he's toast on a stick in New York. About the only card he has left to play is the Say What You Want, But At Least He's Willing To Make A Bold Move card.

Otherwise, all you've accomplished is virtually guarantee that Eli Manning will not retire a Giant, which would the fitting and proper end to his story. Instead, what's likely to happen now is he'll leave this Hazmat site of a franchise -- no offensive line, no running game, all the receivers down -- and go have a sunset moment somewhere else, just like his brother did.

Nicely played, Jints. Not.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Autumn's man

The last time I saw Chris Svarczkopf on a football field, he was sitting in a lawn chair on the 20-yard line.

It was early in the season two autumns ago, maybe still August yet. Bishop Dwenger was playing Concordia in Zollner Stadium. Up in the stands behind us, the usual gaggle of boys had their shirts off and S-A-I-N-T-S painted in blue on their chests; out there on the field, the kids in the gold Dwenger helmets were grinding inexorably toward the goal line, moving closer and closer to where Svarczkopf was sitting.

"So how hard is this going to be for you?" I asked him.

Svarczkopf smiled. He was thinner than I'd ever seen him, wan, floating inside his windbreaker. The trademark moustache was gone. I almost hadn't recognized him at first.

"Well, we'll find out," he said in his customary understated way.

Well, we did.

We found out that Svarckopf was not going to let lymphoma beat him, even if it had temporarily sentenced him to this damnable chair deliberately positioned well away from the Dwenger players. And we learned the Saints would use that dogged stubbornness as inspiration, beating the Cadets this night and then everyone thereafter on the way to a state championship, Dwenger's first since Andy Johns coached the Saints to back-to-back titles in 1990 and '91.

Svarczkopf was on the sideline that night, too, wrapping his arms jubilantly around interim coach Ernie Bojrab, who stepped in to guide the Saints in Svarczkopf's absence that was not entirely an absence.

He still coached up the defensive backs in practice, after all. And he was still around on game nights, if not in the middle of everything. I couldn't imagine how hard that must have been for him, because he was one of the most intense people I've ever known, even if it was never more than a background smolder to the unfailingly polite, even mild, public face he showed the world.

 And so suffice it to say I wasn't remotely surprised when Svarckopf, 62, said yesterday he was stepping down after 15 years as Dwenger's football coach because he could no longer bring the correct level of energy and intensity to the job.

And I use the word "correct" deliberately.

"Correct," because that was Svarczkopf to a fare-the-well, everything else about him flowing from that. Svarczkopf preached correctness, and the way his football teams played and presented themselves reflected that. Whether it was blocking or tackling or setting up in the pocket or dealing with the media, there was a correct way of doing things and an incorrect way. Almost without exception, both Svarczkopf and his teams chose the former.

The popular term for that is "class act." Svarczkopf has always been that. But, mostly, he's been correct.

If there's a better legacy for any man's life, I can't think of it.

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 12

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the venerable Blob feature of which actual venerable people have said "Venerable, my a**!". and also "Where were you during the Depression, sonny? Now that was venerable, by gum! You whippersnappers have no idea!":

1.  It's the fourth quarter, and the Colts are leading!

2. In other news, here comes the Hindenburg! Look how majestically it glides toward its mooring thing! What a great day to be in Lakehurst, N.J.!

3. Meanwhile, the Browns.

4. Continue Brownsing.

5. Also, the Bears.

6. Continue Bearsing.

7. Alex Smith for MVP!

8. (Winner of the "Gee, Remember That?" Post of the Week)

9. "Yo, Adrian! I did it! I got his chain AGAIN!" (Aqib Talib, after snatching Michael Crabtree's chain, setting off one of those football fights that will  be never be confused for Rocky-vs.-Apollo Creed, or even

10. "No way he gets my chain again!" (Michael Crabtree, shortly before Talib got his chain again, setting off one of those football fights etc., etc.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sack race

So I see by the Colts-Titans boxscore that Colts quarterback/latest human sacrifice Jacoby Brissett was sacked eight times Sunday, which means that so far this season he's been sacked more than 40 times.

This makes me wonder if the standard gear for a Colts QB these days should include the following:

A. Helmet.

B. Jersey and uniform pants.

C. Pads.

D. Blindfold.

E. Cigarette (optional).

It also makes me wonder if a Colts QB should, like all condemned men, be given anything he wants to eat every Sunday morning before taking the field. And if "Indianapolis" now has a more sinister connotation than "Devil's Island" or "Alcatraz" as a place of exile for the aforementioned condemned.

If nothing else, the Colts' amazing ability to subject their quarterbacks to symbolic dismemberment ("Hey, Jacoby, is this your leg?" "Naw, that's Andrew's") would seem to be an effective means of making sure your quarterback sticks to the game plan.

COACH MCADOO: Eli! What was that?

ELI MANNING: I didn't think that play would work, so I audibled out of it.

MCADOO: You're not allowed to do that! This is the modern NFL, where quarterbacks aren't allowed to think for themselves! Who do you think you are?

ELI (boldly): I think I'm the guy who has a better view of what the defense is doing than you do.

MCADOO: Really? Well, we'll we see about that. How 'bout I place a phone call to Indianapolis? Hmmm?

(Brief moment of horrified silence)

ELI (much less boldly): OK, fine. I won't do it again. Please, don't make me go THERE. Please.

MCADOO (smugly): That's better.

I'll be here all week, folks.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Coachin' 'em up

I don't know what bowl game Purdue will wind up in. But I do know this.

It'll be better than the bowl game it played in last year.

That's because the Boilers didn't play in a bowl named after a radial tire or a root vegetable, or even an About To Be Swallowed Up By A Telecommunications Predator DotCom Bowl. No, sir. They played in the Black-And-Gold This Is My House Bowl, which is short for "I wear black-and-gold and this is My House and I'm just going to sit here and watch other people play in bowl games."

Maybe first-year head coach Jeff  Brohm isn't the second coming of Joe Tiller in West Lafayette, but for a certainty the first Joe Tiller died with a smile on his face back in September watching what Brohm wrought this fall. What he did was, he made chicken salad out of chicken doo-doo. He took a bunch of football players who'd won five games and two Big Ten games the last two autumns, and won six games and four Big Ten games with them.

Along they the way, they only vaguely resembled the sad sacks they were the last two years, even though it was largely the same guys. Under Brohm and his staff, Purdue was the most improved scoring defense in the country this fall. They looked crisper and more purposeful on offense. And on both sides of the football, they stuck people the way a Purdue team hasn't stuck people in quite some time.

Yesterday they got bowl eligible by beating Indiana 31-24 and taking back the Bucket for the first time in five years, and it wasn't really that close. The Boilermakers led 31-10 before Indiana scored twice in the last six minutes to make it look good.

More to the point: 52,000-plus live human beings showed up to watch in Ross-Ade Stadium.

You see the difference a coach can make on the field, and the 2017 Boilers are a stark example of that. But you also see it in the stands, where coaches mostly live or die in big-time corporate college football.

Football at the Big Ten level primarily exists to generate revenue, and empty seats do not generate revenue. And so beyond the concrete lack of results Brohm's predecessor, Darrell Hazell, was generating between the goal lines in Ross-Ade, his true death knell was being sounded far above turf level, where tumbleweeds were blowing through a stadium into which Purdue had plowed a sizeable chunk of capital.

In Hazell's last season, Purdue never put more than 41,000 fannies in Ross-Ade for a home game, and only twice came close. The Boilers drew just 33,157 fans for Penn State, a marquee opponent. And they drew even fewer than that -- 30,465 -- for another marquee opponent, Wisconsin, which at the time was ranked sixth in the country.

So the place was less than half full for a top ten opponent. A reflection of how dismal the product was on the field, and not a good omen for Hazell.

But this year?

Not only has Brohm worked a miracle between the lines, he, as a result, has worked one where it most counts, too. Unlike 2016, Purdue never drew fewer than 41,000 fans for a home game this fall. For the game against No. 8 Michigan, 60,042 fans filed into Ross-Ade. The Bucket game Saturday drew 52,105. That was 15,000 fans more than it drew two years ago, the last time the game was played in West Lafayette.

In other words: There's significant evidence that Jeff Brohm is the first Purdue football coach who knows what he's doing since Tiller. And the Purdue faithful apparently sense that.

Now if they can just keep some higher-profile program from poaching him ...

Sorry, Boilers. That was cruel.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Your rivalry moment for today

.... does not come from West Lafayette, In., where Purdue and Indiana battle for the Old Oaken Bucket and a berth (presumably) in the DotCom Chicken Sandwich Lawn Implement Bowl, or from Ann Arbor, Mich., where Michigan and Ohio State fight it out in the annual Battle Of Two States That Border Indiana.

(The Blob has always thought the loser should get Indiana in the custody settlement. An equitable judgment, if you ask this native Hoosier).

Anyway ... today's rivalry moment comes from Auburn, Ala., where Auburn and Alabama play in college football's most psychotic rivalry, the Iron Bowl.

I say "psychotic" because not too long ago a deranged 'Bama fan name Harvey Updyke, galled by Cam Newton leading a dramatic comeback for the Tigers, poisoned two iconic live oaks that stood at Toomer's Corner, an Auburn landmark. The perp actually did jail time for killing the trees.

Anyway, ESPN Gameday is on site for this one. And so of course, among the proliferation of signs that regularly sprout behind the on-site set was one that read "An Alabama Fan Poisoned My Other Sign."


Friday, November 24, 2017

Feast on this

There were many fine moments in the Blob's Thanksgiving, such as three kinds of pie (including coconut cream!), and howling at how comically awful the Premier League's Everton looked against Atalanta from Serie A (yes, soccer, on Thanksgiving), and the look of delicious distress on Jerry Jones' face every time Philip Rivers reared back and threw another strike past his helpless Cowboys.

(Yes, American football, too. We are ecumenical in our holiday celebrations).

But the best moment of Thanksgiving?

Had to be this.

I mean, come on. If that's not the alltime Thanksgiving touchdown celebration, what is?

Well played, Vikings. Well played indeed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanks for that

It's the day before Turkeycide Day, when we commemorate that moment when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and decorated the first big tree they saw with bubble lights and Cubs ornaments, and then everyone gathered around the Yule log to eat turkey and wait for Santa Claus to show up bearing the Detroit Lions, and also gifts.

Or, you know, something like that.

Anyway ... on this occasion when we all pause to give thanks, the Blob, which loves its lists, has come up with a list of stuff to be thankful for. Here ya go:

1. Speaking of lists, you can take Charles Manson off your Christmas card list.

2. Our Only Available President got those three UCLA basketball players out of China, something only he could have done according to Our Only Available President, even though it worked out exactly the way the Chinese planned for it to.

3. There remains a remote statistical probability that, somewhere in America, some male in a position of power has not yet groped a female subordinate.

4. Nathan Peterman is still employed, which means there is still a thriving market in the NFL for incompetent white quarterbacks who don't make waves.

5. Rick Pitino: Ready NOW to meet all your basketball and implausible deniability needs.

6. Jerry Jones: Ready NOW to distract you from anthem protests by challenging Roger Goodell to a duel, or maybe just a bare-knuckle fistfight.

7. The NBA season is now only five months or so from hitting its stride.

8. "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime" has been played only 1,234 times so far.

9. There is not yet a law that requires you to go to Walmart on Black Friday.

10. This. Always.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 11

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the scrumptious Blob feature of which many Starbucks customers have said "Can I get that with pumpkin spice?", and also "And can I get it in a cup the War on Christmas foofs will really, really hate?":

1. "Gee, I'm glad they didn't have any earthquakes while we were here." (Bill Belichick, apparently referring to the recent Mexico City quake that, um, killed hundreds)

2. "When can we send this fool back?" (The entire nation of Mexico)

3. "What do you mean, 'Keep him'?" (See above)

4. Paging Tyrod Taylor ... paging Tyrod Taylor ...

5. Your starting job is back from the shop.

6. Sorry we let Peterman drive it.

7. Meanwhile, the Browns!

8. Continue Brownsing!

9.  Dak > Brett Hundley.

10. Probably.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A win for the storyline

Sometimes you get lucky, if you're a sportswriter going hand-to-hand with the deadline demons. The gods of narrative smile. Fate itself, which has bigger fish to fry most of the time, looks down, sees all these poor schmos hunched over their laptops trying to wake up their inner Hemingway, and takes pity.

Then it hands them a day like Sunday, at Homestead, Fla.

Where a rank-and-file scuffler and certified good guy named Martin Truex Jr. ascended to the top of the NASCAR mountain, and, lord, was there some meat on that storyline. Do you go with the fact that four years ago he was out of a job? Do you go with the fact he's stuck by his girlfriend as she's battled cervical cancer? Or do you go with all of that plus the fact that Sunday he won both the race and the NASCAR Cup title for the outlier of all outliers?

Furniture  Row Racing is not Hendricks or Stewart-Haas or Joe Gibbs Racing, the royal houses of NASCAR. They're a bunch of dreamers who operate not out of Charlotte, N.C., like just about everyone else, but out of a nondescript white blockhouse of a building in Denver, Colo. Their race-day crew works out of JGR's complex back in Charlotte. They get their race chassis from Gibbs. And their entire team consists of two drivers, Truex and Erik Jones, a rookie.

Truex, it should be noted, is not a rookie. He's been knocking around NASCAR's big series since 2004, when he was 24. Until 2015, he'd never finished higher than 11th in the points. And of his 15 career wins, 13 have come in the last three years, including eight this year.

Typically, none of those eight wins came easily. Yesterday was a fair microcosm of the whole season: A lot of battling to get the car to work right, a lot of moving around on the track to find a line that worked -- and then, miraculously, finding that line in the late going and leading the last 51 laps.

"I just found a way," Truex said. "I found a lane that I could use and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn't use it and just made it happen. I can't believe it."

Neither, presumably, could all the working stiffs hanging on his words.

See, he may have found his lane and his destiny. But they found their storyline.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Well. At least now we know what Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield's Heisman pose will be.

Hint: Not as cool as Desmond Howard's was.

No, Mayfield's Heisman Un-Moment came during Oklahoma's rout of defenseless Kansas yesterday, when the cameras caught him on the sideline grabbing his crotch and F-bombing the KU sideline. Oh, and when he responded to KU hecklers by telling them to "stick to basketball." (Admittedly, a decent comeback.) Oh, and when he ...

Oh, never mind. That's enough evidence for this trial, which we shall call "Is Baker Mayfield Guilty Of Acting Like a Punk?"

The Blob votes "yes".

It didn't really have an issue with Mayfield dissing Ohio State by planting the OU flag in its midfield logo after the Sooners keel-hauled the Buckeyes in Columbus back in September. That's because it was a clash of equals, and a huge win for the Sooners -- the kind of win where you can excuse a guy for getting a little carried away.

But trash-talking Kansas -- even if the Jayhawks were all kinds of classless themselves, refusing to shake Mayfield's hand during the pregame coin toss -- is crass in the extreme, because it's like taking your 5-year-old nephew out to the driveway and beating him one-on-one, then rubbing it in. Punking someone who can defend himself is one thing; punking someone who can't (and one-win Kansas surely qualified there) is entirely another.

So, yeah, you stand guilty in the court of the Blob. And, no, in case you're wondering, your pro forma apology didn't cut much ice with the jury, either.

Sorry, dude, But if this is how easy it is to get under your skin, the NFL's going to eat you alive.

Something you might want to think about.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sunset for a groundbreaker

It will end, she hopes, where it all began for her. In May. In Indianapolis. In the biggest single-day sporting event in America, at the most iconic racing facility on the planet.

Danica Mania was born on a late May afternoon in 2005, and, if Danica Patrick can qualify for the 2018 Indianapolis 500, it will slip quietly off the stage on a late May afternoon six months hence. Its expiration is long past, of course; Danica Mania died some time ago, when the big-money sponsors finally gave up on her as a NASCAR driver. Her career soon followed, dying a couple of months ago when she lost her final sponsor, the decidedly non-big-money Nature's Bakery.

And so yesterday Patrick made the announcement everyone knew was coming, which is that, at 35, she is done with racing. She'll attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 in February, and then take one more shot at the Big 500 in May.

It's a neatly symmetrical exit for her, because her star never blazed hotter than at Indy in May. In seven starts, she finished in the top 10 six times, and in the top five twice. That, of course, includes the 2005 race, when she finished fourth as a rookie and was leading with 10 laps to run.

Danica Mania was born that day on the wings of an unearthly roar when she took the lead, a roar unlike any even those of us who'd been around for a few 500s had ever quite heard. That the Mania did her as much harm as good will, of course, be debated forever. But not here in Blobville.

Here, it's always been an article of faith that IndyCar did Patrick a disservice by making her the face of the sport long before she had the resume to warrant it.  Not only did it lend her a sense of entitlement that at times was distasteful, it obscured her accomplishments by exaggerating her deficiencies.

More accomplished drivers, the narrative went, never got the sponsorship and marketing opportunities Patrick did. Which was true. But it was also true she was more accomplished than some drivers who escaped similar judgment simply because they were male.

No one, after all, lands in the top ten six times in seven starts in the 500 if they can't wheel a race car. And if she failed utterly in stock cars, she was only one in a long line of IndyCar drivers who couldn't make that jump.

Dario Franchitti, a three-time Indy 500 winner, couldn't do it, and he drove for Chip Ganassi. Sam Hornish Jr., another Indy winner and a former IndyCar champ, has never been able to do it, either, and he drove for Roger Penske. And Juan Pablo Montoya, two-time Indy winner and another Ganassi driver, never managed more than sporadic success in a stock car.

So Danica wasn't alone. And if her success on the track never matched her fame off it, she did more than enough to establish herself as, if not a pioneer, a groundbreaker.

She was the first, and still only, woman ever to lead both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. She was the first, and still only, woman ever to win an IndyCar race. And she was the first, and still only, woman ever to win the pole at Daytona.

Someday, you'll be able to remove the "only" from all of that. But when it happens, her name will again come up.

She belongs, after all, to posterity now. And that she well deserves.

National Folderol League

And now for the latest episode in America's (or at least Texas') favorite daytime drama, As The Jer Turns, in which Dallas Cowboys owner and general pain in the ass Jerry Jones feels hurt and betrayed because his alleged girlfriend-beating running back, Ezekiel Elliott, will have to serve that six-game suspension after all.

That has brought the angry old man in ol' Jer to full boil, because his pal, commissioner Roger Goodell, allegedly promised him Elliott would not be suspended. I mean, if you can't trust a skeevy backroom deal among the rich and powerful, what can you trust?

And so ol' Jer, who thought it was great when Goodell went after the New England Patriots and Tom Brady's cheatin' behind in Deflategate, has decided Goodell is the devil incarnate now that's he gone after the Cowboys in Zekegate. A man of integrity when it came to going after someone else's team, Goodell has now transformed into a backstabbing hornswoggler now that it's ol' Jer's team getting dinged.

And if you're thinking here "Holy crow, what a hypocrite!", consider yourself a fine judge of character. Add another gold star to that if you're also thinking "Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell. How do you root?"

Because, listen, rarely has it been harder to pick a side in a feud. On the one hand, Goodell's about to get a gargantuan raise for presiding over a league that spent years lying about the concussion issue and, that didn't really care about the domestic violence issue until that elevator video of Ray Rice turned up. And on the other hand ...

Well, it's Jerry Jones. A narcissistic, grandstanding foof whose team hasn't done squadoosh since Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer left.

Ezekiel Elliott, he figured, gave the Cowboys their best ground game since Emmitt Smith was galloping into the Hall of Fame. And thus their best chance to reach the Super Bowl again.

Now he's gone, and the Cowboys will likely suffer because of it. How dare the commissioner mess up a presumptive dream season!

"I'm coming after you with everything I have!" Jones reportedly raged at Goodell after Elliott's suspension came down.

Which at least allows the imagination to ponder the proper venue for that coming-after.

I say we put ol' Jer and Roger The Hammer in the octagon and let 'em have it at. Chokeholds, hair pulling and liberal kicking in the nuts allowed.

They could do it in the Jerry Dome. That would probably make ol' Jer happy.