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.

Hester?

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 ...!

DEMOLTION GUY 2: Damn it!

MATT MILLEN: This is NOT my fault!

THE PONTIAC SILVERDOME: Heh.

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
Rocky-vs.-Drago)

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."

Priceless.

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

Punk'd

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Punishment phase

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

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

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

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

And now it gets interesting.

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

And so: Discipline Ave vs. the Expedience Expressway.

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

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

What to do, what to do.

The Blob?

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

Oh, the crosses we bear.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Back that thing up

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

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

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

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

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

Like that was supposed to fool anyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, you know, never mind that.

Prevailing wisdom

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

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

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

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

Guess the pollsters showed us.

For now, anyway.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 10

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

1. The Cleveland Browns!

2. The New York Football Giants!

3. Speaking of, you know, recurring headaches.

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

5. Meanwhile, Tom Brady.

6. Is really this guy.

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

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

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

10. Sorry. Nodded off for a second there.

Monday, November 13, 2017

And now, a brief NASCAR moment

In which two facts of interest will be passed along:

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

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

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

So who will win?

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

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

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

Irish ... not rising

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

And remember when the Blob also said this?

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

Yeah, well ... fooled again.

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned. Things are about to get interesting.

Just, you know, not for Notre Dame.

Inauspicious start

So, did you hear the news?

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

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

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

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

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

And Larry Bird didn't even play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivalry weak

Those damn echoes. Sometimes they're harder to wake up than a college kid on break.

In South Bend and Coral Gables and all the places in America where TV ratings are the staff of life, they've tried and tried to wake the echoes this week, with Notre Dame and Miami playing a football game again that actually matters. Lou Holtz! Jimmy Johnson! Catholics vs. Convicts, and The Brawl In the Hall  -- actually, the brawl in the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium that preceded ND's epic 31-30 victory in 1988, the last season Notre Dame won a national title.

Remember that?

Sure you do, because it's all been replayed for us ad nauseum this week, all the bitterness, all the ancient titanic moments. Remember when Miami humiliated Gerry Faust's last Irish team 58-7, which ignited the fabled Era of Bad Feeling And Really Huge Games? Remember Tony Rice vs. Steve Walsh? Remember Pat Terrell's interception that finally, finally ended that glorious 31-30 afternoon?

Sure you do.

The problem is, nobody else does.

Notre Dame, to begin with, is four coaches and 20 years removed from the Holtz Era. Jimmy Johnson has been gone from Miami for 28 years. None of the players, for either team, were so much as a gleam in their parents' eye the last time Notre Dame and Miami played a meaningful game.

So it's been almost comical to witness how hard it's been to muster enmity in either camp this week. What happened in 1988 is of no more relevance to the kids on the Miami and Notre Dame rosters than the stock market crash of 1929. It's an historic event to a generation notoriously allergic to history.

That even goes for the coaches. Brian Kelly was 27 years old and coaching defensive backs at Grand Valley State when Notre Dame and Miami met at the summit in '88. Miami coach Mark Richt was 28 and an assistant for Bobby Bowden at Florida State. And Miami-Notre Dame itself has, except for that brief window in time, never been what you could call a great or even much more than sporadic rivalry.

They've met 25 times over the years. Notre Dame has won 17, including the last three. No bitterness attaches to their meeting anymore -- although perhaps tomorrow night, with unbeaten Miami trying to spoil CFP No. 3 Notre Dame's surprisingly dominant season, a new Era of Bad Feeling could be born.

Until then, we're left only with the words of both current coaches.

"Mark has done a  great job of bringing the energy and enthusiasm back into Miami," Kelly said this week of the Hurricanes.

"When you run the ball for over 300 some yards a game ... you're doing something special," Richt countered of the Irish.

Sigh.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Whither football

Tony Kornheiser thinks it will go the way of boxing and horse racing, eventually. Bob Costas doesn't think that, but he thinks you can't change the laws of physics, can't change basic realities or cold scientific fact simply because you wish that fact were something else.

And the scientific fact is, football players are getting bigger, stronger, faster.

And because they are getting bigger, stronger, faster, they generate many more foot-pounds of force than they used to.

And because they generate many more foot-pounds of force than they used to, blows to the head -- an unavoidable circumstance of the game -- are going to be exponentially more life-threatening (or at the very least quality-of-life-threatening) going forward.

Football is no longer a collision sport, not when linemen who went 260 pounds a half-century ago go 360 today. It's a car collision sport. Ask anyone who's ever stood on a college or pro sideline and heard two of today's behemoths fly into one another.

“The truth is the truth,” Costas said in a panel discussion the other night that sounded more like a eulogy for an American game. "Some of the best people I’ve met in sports have been football people, but the reality is that this game destroys people’s brains. … That’s the fundamental fact of football, and that to me is the biggest story in American sports.”

True and true. What is not true is that it's time to lay football to rest, say a few appropriate words and cover the grave with a spray of black-and-blue flowers.

No, football is not going to go the way of horse racing and boxing in the American consciousness, because it is more adaptable than either and not as much a vehicle for gambling or incorrigible corruption. Horse racing started to go away when it became almost solely the former, to the point where now you don't even have to go to the track anymore to drop a roll on My Lucky Lady in the fifth. Just stop by the OTB and watch your race on one of the many screens. It's a video game now.

And boxing?

It has always been infested with sharpies and wise guys eager to make sure the fix was in and to steal from the poor schmoes who stepped into the ring at their behest. And after Ali and Frazier and Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson went away, the lights went dark on its marquee heavyweight division -- and then along came mixed martial arts to steal its audience.

That isn't going to happen with football.

What is going to happen is the game will adapt, and adapt again, and if its price in maimed bodies and darkened brains will never entirely be cheap, it will not exact the exorbitant toll it does now. And if the old-schoolers grumble that the game is a pale, sissified facsimile of the game they grew up ...

Well. It always has been thus.

Fact is, your football is not your father's football, and your father's football was not your grandfather's football. And yet you still watch it. Between the college and pro versions, you watch it every day or night of the week in the fall.

"They might as well make it flag football!" someone occasionally grumbles when a quarterback is felled by a passing breeze and the official's flag comes out.

And yet he'll continue to watch.

And yet kids will continue to play it, because, what the hell, it's fun.

And the only difference, down the pike, will be the cosmetics of the game itself -- and also the demographics, because more and more players will make their pile and get out, and the player who's still around on the high side of 30 will be as a rare as a spotted owl.

But the game he leaves behind will remain. In some form or fashion, it will remain.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A word to the unwise

So I see Bob Knight, America's quintessential Crotchety Old Man Shouting At Clouds, is at it again, chiding his betters -- i.e., John Wooden -- because Wooden let the shady Sam Gilbert have too much influence on his program at UCLA.

 "I damn sure could have dealt with him," Knight said he was thinking when Wooden confided he didn't know what to do about Gilbert.

Yeah. OK, Bob.

You want to know what you really would have done about Gilbert?

Probably the same thing Wooden did. And you know why?

Because Gilbert was not only shady, he allegedly had some scary connections with some truly scary people. The kind of scary people who could make uncooperative individuals disappear, if you catch my drift.

So, no, I don't think Knight would have handled Gilbert any differently. And as to him flapping his gums about his betters?

Like Mom always said: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 9

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the Blob feature of which Mr. Creosote has said "(Bleep) you, I'm full," and the Black Knight has said "Come back here and take what's coming to you!"

(Because if the Cleveland Browns aren't a Monty Python skit, who is?):

1. Speaking of the Browns, they did NOT intentionally booger up the A.J. McCarron deal.

2. "Nah, we were just stupid," Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said.

3. (Or words to that effect.)

4. In other news, the New York Football Giants!

5. (Sorry. Just going for more laughs there.)

6.  Carson Wentz for President!

7. (I mean, come on. He's gotta be smarter than What's His Name.)

8. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott!

9. Is having the greatest season for a suspended guy ever!

And last but not least ...

10. Jacoby Brissett for President!

 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The glory of choreography

It's easy these days to bash the NFL, because, well, it's the NFL. Market saturation and a bland, corporatized product has turned it, too often, into the football version of a visit to the dentist.

But here's one thing the Shield got right: It relaxed the restrictions on end-zone celebrations.

The No Fun League apparently got tired of being called the No Fun League, and so, like the soulless corporate entity it still is, it decided to mandate the return of fun. ("OK! You can have fun now!" one imagines Roger Goodell saying, rather sternly.) Thus the return of choreographed group celebrations in the end zone, and thus the return of the one thing that's actually still, well, fun about the NFL.

And so here, a few weeks back, were the Seattle Seahawks celebrating a score by playing an impromptu game of Duck, Duck, Goose in the end zone. And here was someone else, apparently in an homage to the baseball playoffs, celebrating with a pantomime of a pitcher pitching and a batter hitting a home run. And here, last night, were the Kansas City Chiefs celebrating a Travis Kelce TD by pantomiming a sack race.

Which Kelce won, of course, as the guy who scored the touchdown.

What gray, dour soul could possibly not love that?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

That distraction thing. Again.

So James Franklin thinks his Penn State Nittany Lions, losers now of two in a row, have succumbed to that coaching favorite, the mighty D-word, the D-stroyer of seasons, the D-stabilizer of equilibrium and focus and all that hoo-ha.

We speak, of course, of the dreaded Distractions.

Distractions, Franklin says, are what ultimately tripped up the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter at Ohio State and in the last second at Michigan State, and he is on the warpath against them. This week, he vows, his players will be turning off their phones. They will be turning off Herbie and Corso on ESPN. They will even be turning off (gasp!) the Big Ten Network -- which will fall as  heresy on the ears of commissioner Jim Delany, whose commitment to squeezing every last penny out his Power 5 cash cow led to the Big Ten Network to begin with, and then to the East Coast markets of Big Ten outliers Maryland and Rutgers.

Not to get distracted by the topic of distractions or anything.

Listen. The Blob has made its position clear on distractions before, which is that they largely are  mythical beasts. They are the invention of coaches desperately seeking reasons for why their kids sometimes show up flat -- or, in this case, not flat, simply not good enough on a particular day to win.

That's what happened to the Nittany Lions the last two weeks, if you strip away all the noise about distractions. They led Ohio State on the road until the final minutes before wearing down in the face of relentless defensive pressure from the Buckeyes' supreme down seven. And they were right there with a 7-2 Michigan State team until the last play of the game, when a field goal beat them as time expired.

This does not sound to me like a team whose heads were filled with the frothy praise of Herbie and Corso. It does not sound to me like a team so obsessed with (as they used to say in the old days) its press clippings it forgot how to block and tackle and throw and catch.

Maybe you can say that about Ohio State, which followed up its big win with a 55-24 laydown at Iowa. But the Nittany Lions lost two roadies to two good teams by a total of four points. Somehow the Blob doubts mooning over their 7-0 start or No. 2 ranking played much of a role in either.

But that's just me.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Stating the obvious

Two nights ago, for, like, the 1,457th Thursday night in a row, I did not watch the NFL's Thursday night game.

Not a down. Not a snap. Couldn't have cared less if it had been Thursday Night Readings of John Stuart Mill instead of Thursday Night Football.

This puts me on the same side of the fence with the Bills' Richie Incognito, which frankly unnerves me. Incognito says Thursday games suck. He says they're just a cash grab and take the wind out of the NFL's windy pronouncements about how much they care about player safety. He says, in so many words, that football at the NFL level is not a sport in which a mere three days between games are enough.

I hate to agree with Richie Incognito, who remains an incorrigible rockhead and bully. But he's dead-on right here.

Thursday night football is nothing but a callous cash grab. And it's hurting the product besides.

That's the latest meme now from the media, which has suddenly decided one of the NFL's problems is there is simply too much NFL. Both the Wall Street Journal and Sports Business Journal have written about it. Deadspin has written about the WSJ and SBJ writing about it. The NFL is, apparently, overexposed.

Here's the thing about that: It's not something that just happened.

Fact is, there's been too much NFL for awhile now, because for nearly 365 days of the year you can't get away from it. It's not just the fall, when the NFL is on the box from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays, again on Monday night, again on Thursday night, and (once the calendar clears Thanksgiving) again on Saturday. And now that the league is sending its product to London on a semi-regular basis, Sunday mornings aren't even free of the Shield.

(About that: Why do the NFL poobahs insist on believing that England gives a tinker's damn about American football? Do they really think Brits are going to quit Arsenal vs. Man City on Sundays to watch the Browns and the Vikings? And if you're trying to showcase your product, why in God's name are you sending the Browns?)

Anyway ... it's not just all those games. It's that sports media is obsessed with the NFL even when the games aren't being played. A sportswriter friend of mine once quipped that ESPN's programming consisted of the NFL, the NFL Draft, NFL training camps and LeBron James. He wasn't far off the mark.

So, yes, the NFL is suffering from market saturation. People simply don't need a football fix every 30 seconds or so. And when you throw college football, which now plays on every day of the week except Sunday and Monday ... well, it's pretty obvious. That's just too much football.

(Although I have to say, I spend a lot more Saturdays sutured to my couch than Sundays. This is because college football is far, far better than pro football, because there are actual historic rivalries in college football, and every week there are huge games that actually matter. The NFL has no true rivalries anymore. And so there are no single games that inspire true passion during the long slog of the regular season. Cowboys-vs.-Redskins ain't the Iron Bowl or Army-Navy or the Red River Shootout, no matter what the league's broadcast partners try to tell you.)

Look. Hugely successful corporate entities like the NFL almost always make the same faulty assumption, which is that if playing twice a week has made them hugely successful, playing four times a week will make them even more hugely successful. It hardly ever works out that way; in fact, eventually it causes the hugely successful corporate entity to implode more often than not.

That probably won't happen to the NFL, mind you. But making people wait from Monday night to Sunday for your product?

That would be a solid business decision. Which is why it won't happen.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Just a few fleeting thoughts

Because sometimes even the Blob can't turn off its brain.

("You have a brain?" -- The Blobophiles, all two of them).

Here goes:

Why was Deshaun Watson even practicing anyway? (Tip o' the cap to Allen Iverson for that one). He's thrown a gazillion touchdown passes in, like, six games, and the Texans are playing the Colts. Think practice had already made perfect in this instance.

Speaking of the Colts, they've finally done what everyone in the known universe knew they were eventually going to have to do and turned off the clock on Andrew Luck (two years too late, but still). Which likely means something else everyone in the known universe knows: The clock is now running in earnest on Chuck Pagano.

So Papa John says his business is suffering because the NFL won't violate the constitutional rights of those awful, "disrespectful" football players. Wonder if it's ever occurred to him that his very public support for a hugely unpopular president might have something to do with that instead.

And on that note, said president, our only available one, dressed in some sort of stars-and-stripes getup for Halloween. Speaking of disrespecting the flag.

And finally ...

If the sports media poodles wringing their hands over the "Cavs struggles" five months before the NBA actually matters had been running the United States during the Civil War, the Union would have surrendered after the first battle of Bull Run and there would still be a Confederacy. Which means all those people whining about monuments would have to find something else to whine about.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Magnificent riddle

And this is why baseball is great, because nobody knows nuttin'. It's easier predicting the weather, or whatever mad spew comes next from Our Only Available President. Even those noted authorities up in the pressbox frequently are flummoxed.

So here we were on the first night of November, and the Blob, a card-carrying Noted Authority alum, kept wagging its shaggy head as the Astros changed pitchers the way a seasoned commuter changes trains.

"You watch," I told my wife, Julie, with the score standing at 5-1 Houston. "Eventually the Astros are gonna find a pitcher the Dodgers can hit. That manager's gonna outthink himself."

About that time Charlie Morton rung up another batter.

A delighted laugh from Julie.

"The best part about watching baseball with you is realizing you don't know any more than I do," she said, or words to that effect.

And I don't. Nobody does. Which is why baseball is great.

Consider: After all the hijinks in this World Series, all the baseballs flying out of ballparks and the insane Home Run Derby of Game 2 and insane-r Home Run Derby of Game 5, the Astros rode their arms to their first World Series title last night. They yanked their starter, Lance McCullers, in the third even though he was doing fine, and then they ran out Brad Peacock for awhile and then Francisco Liriano for one batter and then some guy named Devenski for one batter.

Finally they brought out Charlie Morton, who'd lost 6-2 to the Dodgers in Game 4.

Morton pitched the last four innings. He gave up one earned run on two hits. And the Astros won it for Harvey-battered Houston, won it for all those Astros fans who remember the old Colt .45s and lived through the Era of the Technicolor Yawn unis, which was quite an Era to live through.

No Home Run Derby this time. No late-inning heroics. Just four pitchers who weren't Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander giving up three hits across the last 6 2/3 to nail it down for the 'Stros.

And now the Blob remembers something else it said last night, much earlier, while discussing the upcoming Game 7 with a friend.

"You know what's great about baseball?" I said. "You can't predict it. Whoever wins tonight, you can almost guarantee someone you least expect will decide it."

Well, I was half-right. Series MVP George Springer, whom everyone had heard of, was one of the guys who decided it. But the other guy who decided it was Charlie Morton, who came to the big moment last night with a career ERA of 4.41 and a career record of 60-78.

Not last night, though. Last night, for four innings, he was Christy Freakin' Mathewson -- or perhaps Nolan Freakin' Ryan, who once pitched for the Astros himself.

Who knew?

And how awesome is that?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Irish rising, Part Deux

And so ... let the backlash begin.

You know. The Oh, Here We Go, More Notre Dame Hype backlash.

The first College Football Playoff poll is out, and there were some mild surprises, the least mild among  them that the Irish -- 4-8 a year ago, 7-1 with essentially the same bunch of gomers now -- came in at No. 3. That was a surprise. But only a kinda-sorta surprise.

Allow me to explain.

Allow me to explain, once again, that there is such a thing as an eye test, and this Notre Dame team, unlike so many in the past, passes it. It is a team, as has been noted, that is not just squeaking by the usual run of Pitts and Boston Colleges and Armys. It is a team that is absolutely crushing everyone -- beating them up physically, on both of sides of the football, the way a Notre Dame team hasn't since it last won a national title 28 years ago.

The Irish beat a better-than-decent North Carolina State team by three touchdowns last Saturday, a week after beating an OK-but-not-great USC team by 28. They have beaten everyone they have played by at least 20 points, except for a one-point loss to Georgia -- and Georgia, correctly, came in at No. 1 in the first CFP poll, bumping Alabama to No. 2 mainly because Alabama hasn't played anyone who's anyone.

And so it would be Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson in the playoff if it began today, and you've got to like ND's chances to stay in the top four. Unlike the rest of the top four, it has no conference championship game to play (and risk losing). All it has left are a decent Wake Forest team, a decent Navy team, a decent Stanford team, and a roadie against an unbeaten Miami team.

It could lose at least one of those, particularly the Miami game. But three decents and a better than decent (Miami) is not exactly a nightmare gantlet, especially for a team that's been chewing up and spitting out decents all season. And so the Blob is starting to entertain the heresy that Notre Dame is  going to win out.

It could be wrong, of course. It has frequently been wrong about Notre Dame. But somehow it feels different time.

Remember those words.