Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Your Super Bowl moment for today

... comes from Media Day, which the NFL is now calling Opening Night on account of it happens on Monday night instead of Tuesday midday, mainly so the Shield can further mess with newspaper grunts who still have deadlines to meet.

No, it's not Tom Brady getting choked up talking about his father, disproving the prevailing theory that he is an android from the planet Deflatia. And, no, it's not all the silly questions about hair product and What's Your Favorite Pizza and What's The Secret To A Righteous Beard.

(Although the Blob, watching all the video clips, failed to hear a question as awesomely stupid as the one someone asked Bears tight end Desmond Clark on Media Day in 2007. Which was: If Chewbacca was a football player, what position would he play?)

No, sir. The Super Bowl Moment For Today happened when someone asked Bill Belichick, aka Darth Hoodie, to smile, and he actually did.

Well, kinda.

Monday, January 30, 2017

That new car smell

... or, you know, that New Guy smell.

Chris Ballard is the New Guy in Indianapolis, and he comes with some fragrant credentials. As director of football operations in Kansas City, he's helped mold the Chiefs into a solid franchise that has won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons, and -- more importantly -- his draft picks have panned out. Which is not what anyone could say for his predecessor, Ryan Somebody.

But as with a new vehicle, New Guy smell is fleeting. What's relevant here for the Colts is what will happen when he gets a few miles on him -- i.e., what happens not quite three months down the road in late April, when the NFL Draft happens.

The draft is the true measure of any NFL GM, the three days when he earns his paycheck (or fails to earn it). Ryan Somebody failed largely because he failed, at times spectacularly, on those three days. What happened on the other 362 days of the year was pretty much meaningless.

And so we will know whether the New Guy is going to be a wise purchase in late April, not now. By then, of course, we'll also know if he can get along with the holdover head coach, Chuck Pagano. Even if they hit it off, there is now the unavoidable sense that Pagano is a dead man walking. Every successful GM, after all, wants his own guy. And if Ballard sticks the landing on those three days in April, he'll have the capital to push for it if he chooses -- which will make that dead-man-walking feel about Pagano even more acute.

Anyway ... we shall see.  In the meantime, enjoy the new car smell.

It could mean you've just bought your dream ride. Or it could mean you're stuck with some sawdust-in-the-transmission beater.

Time will tell.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Your Pro Bowl moment for today

And, yes, I know what you're saying: How did the Pro Bowl hijack an entire Blob meme?

Well, it's because we're still a week away from the Super Bowl, and the Pro Bowl is tonight, and the Blob is an enthusiastic fan of public service announcements. And so Your Super Bowl Moment For Today has become Your Pro Bowl Moment For Today, just so the Blob can offer you, as a public service, a list of things you can do tonight instead of watch the Pro Bowl:

1. Watch "Victoria" on PBS. It's really good.

2. Write that letter to Roger Goodell you've been putting off, the one that begins "So, are you going to show up at the Super Bowl, Mr. Candy-Ass?"

3. Rewrite the letter in a more respectful tone, i.e., "So, are you going to show up at the Super Bowl, Mr. Candy-Ass, sir?"

4. Watch the replay of Roger Federer's five-set victory over Rafe Nadal in the Australian Open final. That was really good, too.

5. Start planning your Super Bowl menu.

6. Start planning your Daytona 500 menu.

7. Work on a marketing plan that will make the Pro Bowl seem more than just a meaningless exercise in something that vaguely resembles football. Suggested themes: The Greatest Spectacle In Groin Pull Avoidance ... Hey, Look, Palm Trees! ... and, If We Bring Back Former Stars (Peyton Manning? Brett Favre?) And Let Them Play, Will You Watch? You'll Watch, Right?

8. Send annoying texts to your friends whom you know are watching the Pro Bowl ("Ur watching the Pro Bowl, rnt u? Loser!")

9. Review your Super Bowl and Daytona menus. Scratch out "fruit salad," add "more brats."

And last but not least ...

10. One word: macramé.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A valid excuse

Remember a couple of years back, when Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks was suspended for a game by the worst commissioner in sports, Gary Bettman, because he was sick and skipped the NHL All-Star Game?

It violated the NHL's dopey rule that no All-Star can skip the All-Star Game for any reason without incurring a penalty. So even though Toews was apparently legitimately ill, he got suspended.

The Blob wondered aloud then if perhaps Toews should have produced a note from Epstein's mom, of "Welcome Back, Kotter" fame.

Or maybe he should have just brought a dog into it.

That's All-Star coach John Tortorella's excuse for giving this All-Star game a miss, and it's a darn good one. It seems his son, who's deployed overseas, has a 10-year-old dog, and the dog is ill. So Tortorella is staying home to care for it.

Whether Bettman will punish him -- or whether coaches are even subject to the same penalties, which they should be -- remains to be seen. But I can't imagine even Bettman would be so cotton-headed as to tick off two such powerful constituencies as dog-lovers and supporters of Our Troops.

Besides, if push came to shove, Tortorella could always bring a note from Epstein's mom, too. And what it would say is this:

Please excuse John. He had to stay home to care for his son's dog.

It got sick because it ate John's homework.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Racing toward oblivion

We're now less than a month away from the Blob's traditional first sign of spring, the Daytona 500, which revives again what's become an annual debate: What Do You Do When The Thrill Is Gone?

This is, of course, a reference to NASCAR itself, which once was big enough to fancy itself the fourth major sport in the U.S. and now is leaking oil like an '82 Ford Escort. Attendance is down, TV numbers are down, interest in the product is down: It's a trend now. And has been for almost a decade.

NASCAR's solution to this was to announce this week more sweeping changes to its format, which as near as we can tell is Sweeping Change No. 342 in a series. This time the NASCAR poobahs have decided essentially to turn every race on the schedule into a series of sprints, dividing all races into three segments. At the end of each, the caution will come out, cars will pit and drivers will be available for interviews.

How this will do anything but prolong races that are already too long to hold the public's interest is an excellent question. As is how, by doing so, it will improve the quality of the racing.

It's been noted in this space before that NASCAR's continual tweaking and tinkering is less a product of reality than perception. The sport's outlandish (and unrealistic) success in the 1990s-early 2000s has become its own worst enemy; though it remains, and will remain, far and away the most successful racing series in America, NASCAR continues to chase the unicorn of its glorious but  unrecoverable past.

Contrivances such as the Three Races In One plan are unlikely to help much. Far more sensible are the proposals put forth here by the Blob's colleague and fellow racing writer Justin Kenny.

Everything Kenny says here is absolutely on the mark. The fields are too bloated with hopeless back markers. Races are too long, and there are too many of them, with the consequence that NASCAR's playoffs wind up getting lost in the immense shadow of the NFL.

No one's going to pay attention to the Showdown at Homestead in November. But a Showdown in late August or early September, before the NFL truly gets ramped up, stands a far more likely chance of being noticed.

And the Brickyard?

The Blob would only add that, in addition to running it every three or four years instead of every year, you move it to the road course. It's hard to believe that wouldn't be a better show than what we're getting now on the oval.

Or so NASCAR could only hope.

Your Super Bowl moment for today

... or, in other words, it's time for the return of a Blob hardy perennial, which blooms intermittently in the run-up to the Super Bowl and then disappears for another year.

("Thank God!" you're saying)

At any rate, today's Moment takes us to a gas station in Gainesville, Georgia, where the proprietor has declared he will stop selling Sam Adams beer until after the Super Bowl. This of course begs the question of how much Sam Adams they actually sell anyway in Gainesville, a town of 35,000 souls northeast of Atlanta. But never mind that.

What's interesting here is the proprietor is doing this in response to a column by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote the other day that it was hard for Patriots Nation to get fired up to play, ahem, Atlanta.  Mainly this is because Atlanta is notorious for not being a great pro sports town.

Which, sorry, Gainesvillians, is actually true.

Atlanta has never had the rep for being a rabid pro sports town, seeing how they were lukewarm even about the Braves back in the '90s, when the Bravos were winning their division every year and going to the World Series every other year. As for the Falcons and Hawks, Atlanta fans get something of a pass considering most years there hasn't been much about the Falcons and Hawks to get excited about.

The former always seemed to fail spectacularly when the Big Spotlight went on. The latter, until the last couple of years, were simply an NBA face in the crowd that yearly reminded you how long it's been since Dominique Wilkins played for them.

So Shaughnessy was pretty much on point. And there'll be no Sam Adams sold in a certain Gainesville, Ga., gas station. And the Blob eagerly awaits some gas station in Massachusetts to retaliate.

Sorry, folks. No pork rinds until after the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Unpaid help alert

So here is what is happening now in the groves of academe, where big-ticket college football is not at all incompatible with the mission of the universities it represents, oh, no, not at all ...

The University of Michigan just became the nation's first public institution to pay three assistant football coaches $1 million a year each.

Three assistant coaches.

One million each.

Meanwhile, the two coordinators, defensive coordinator Don Brown and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, have been retained with contracts worth more than $10 million over the next five years. That's north of $2 million a year, if my math's right.

And as for the players who make it possible for those coaches to pull down such hefty paychecks, and who serve as unpaid human billboards for their universities' chunky apparel deals, and who enrich their athletic departments by winning the games and putting their programs in high-dollar bowls?

They're still constrained by the old fiction that constrains no one else: That this is an amateur enterprise fueled by earnest scholar-athletes who needn't worry their pretty little heads about how much their schools are making off their uncompensated labors. After all, they're getting a free education!

(Which is only half-true itself much of the time, as it turns out. But never mind that)

No wonder some of the unpaid help tried to unionize not long ago. No wonder "scholar-athletes" in a position to do so choose money over "loyalty" and "team" by sitting out bowl games in preparation for the draft. Like everyone else in this shabby theater of the absurd, they're just maximizing their future earning power.

Which means college did teach them something after all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Your fake transcript for today

... because faking stuff is apparently in vogue these days.

And so we go to the hallowed halls of the National Football League -- paved with gold and inlaid with the scrambled wits of the concussed -- where Roger Goodell, the nation's other Glorious Leader, is faced with a disagreeable task: Having to attend the Super Bowl even though the New England Patriots are in it, with the prospect looming that he will be forced to hand the Lombardi Trophy to his nemesis Tom Brady.

(Also known, in New England, as the Horribly Persecuted Tom Brady. Also the Utterly Blameless Tom Brady. Also Saint Tom of Brady, Pure In Thought, Word And Deed.)

Anyway ... this can't be a good time in Roger the Hammer's life. He successfully managed to duck going to New England during the playoffs, but he can't duck the Super Bowl. Although he has apparently thought about it, according to this fake transcript of a fake conversation he had with his lieutenants Monday, fake-leaked to the media:

ROGER GOODELL: OK, guys. I've called you here today to come up with some ideas on how I can get out of going to the Super Bowl.

GUY NO. 1: Um ... sir, it's the Super Bowl. You're the commissioner of the NFL. I don't think you can get out of it.

GOODELL: Not helpful, Myron.

GUY NO. 1: It's Byron, sir.

GOODELL: Right. OK, anyone else?

(Silence from the other Guys)

GOODELL: Come on! Speak up! Anyone!

GUY NO. 2: Um, sir ... Byron's right. It's the Super Bowl. You have to be there.

GUY NO. 3: I concur. You can't go to Atlanta this time. It would look weird.

(Goodell sighs. Looks crestfallen)

GOODELL: Can't I go to an NBA game? The Nets are home that day, I see.

GUYS 1,2,3 (in unison): No, sir.

GOODELL: How about a Rangers game? Are they home?

GUYS 1,2,3 (in unison): Sorry, sir. You can't.

(Goodell sighs again)      

GOODELL: Well, poop.

(Shakes his head)

Knew I shoulda hired that body double.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Today's moment of alternative reality

So you know what happened over the weekend? You do know, right?

The Indianapolis Colts fired GM Ryan Grigson, architect of the Seven Blocks of Spackle offensive line that has almost gotten Andrew Luck killed, architect of the Parchment Curtain defense that has, officially, about 0.5 playmakers.

They did not fire head coach Chuck Pagano, who took the meager scraps Grigson provided him and somehow made them more meager.

Colts owner Jim Irsay declared, essentially, that this is because Pagano is about to morph into Bill Belichick. Seriously. He is. Just watch.

I mean, didn't he take the Colts up to Foxborough Sunday and beat the Patriots 56-12 in the AFC title game? Didn't the Colts reach the Super Bowl just one day after Grigson was let go?

What do you mean they didn't?

What do you mean I'm lying?

Pffft. I'm not lying. I'm just presenting alternative facts.

Which, I hear, are all the rage these days.

Hey, look, we got us a Super Bowl

And, as feared, it's the Patriots vs. Falcons.

The Team Everyone Outside New England Is Sick To Death Of, vs. The Team That's Really Fun To Watch But That No One Outside Atlanta Really Cares About.

So we've got that going for us.

Not much in the way of surprises yesterday, except for how much extra the medical crew at the Georgia Dome got paid for hauling off all those wounded Packers. Haven't seen that much carnage since Verdun. And the ones who escaped unscathed looked as if they were suffering from shellshock. Dropped passes, a delay penalty on a kickoff, Jordy Nelson at one point gesturing helplessly as if he were unsure what the play was ... it's been a long time since the Blob has seen a team that was so clearly mentally unprepared to play a big game.

Couple other observations:

* The Falcons looked frighteningly unstoppable, but that perception must be tempered by the fact they were playing against a skeleton crew. When you're down to essentially special teams guys at DB, which the Packers were, Julio Jones is going to look like Superman and Mohammed Sanu is going to look like Batman. So as good as Atlanta's offense is -- the best in the NFL this year -- yesterday wasn't a true metric of just how good.

* Ditto the Patriots. As others have noted, what the Steelers play defensively dovetails neatly with what Tom Brady excels against. And so of course he did. And of course he did it, in the usual Patriot way, by turning a face in the crowd named Chris Hogan into, well, Julio Jones. Sure, people in New England know who Hogan is. But outside New England, he doesn't exactly leap to mind when you start listing the league's marquee wideouts (Jones ... Antonio Brown ... Odell Beckham Jr. ... Chris Hogan. Um, no).   For all anyone outside New England knew, Chris Hogan was driving a cab in Southie last week.

Proof once again that Belichick, and Brady, can turn anyone into a star. And, in the Super Bowl, they won't be the depleted Packers, who by the end Sunday were gathered around Aaron Rodgers like the last remnant of the 7th Cavalry gathered around Custer above the Little Bighorn.

The Falcons are talented. They're faster than the starting field at Indy. But they are also very young. Seven of their starting 11 on defense are rookies or second-year players.

And so the Blob's early, early, surely-too-early prediction for Super Bowl LI turns on this calculus: A bunch of kids who've never been there, plus a head coach (Dan Quinn) who's never been there, vs. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

I think we know how that comes out. Patriots win.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Patriots Day

See, the Blob knew it could make you run screaming.

Actually, it may not be Patriots Day, because the Steelers are rough and tough, the Steelers are feeling their oats, the Steelers are a bunch of other clichés these days. People keep saying Antonio Brown's boneheaded filming of the Steelers' postgame locker room last weekend will be a distraction, but it probably won't be. Distractions of this nature are largely mythological creatures, invented by a bored news media. Once foot meets ball, they don't exist.

(I mean, come on. Anyone who thinks Brown is going to drop one of Ben Roethlisberger's throws or James Harrison is going to not get after Tom Brady because they had to answer a few questions about what Brown did is ... well, a pretty silly person).

So, yeah, the Steelers could go into Foxborough and win. But they probably won't. Which means we're likely to get yet another Patriots Super Bowl -- a statement akin to saying we're likely to get another root canal.

This leads me to a notion that seems heretical to me: If the Patriots are in it again -- and especially if the Falcons are in it, too -- I  may give the Super Bowl a miss this year. Mind you, I've never not watched the Super Bowl. I've always watched because A) it's an American tradition, and B) as a sportswriter for four decades, I always felt it was kind of my duty to watch it.

But I don't know if I can handle the Patriots again. And I have a feeling I'm not alone.

Sure, if you live in New England, you're never gonna get tired of seeing Belichick, Brady and whoever in the Big Roman Numeral. Outside of New England, however, the rest of us are heartily sick of them.

They are, first of all, the most boring team in football. Except for Rob Gronkowski, everyone has been so thoroughly Patriot-ized that Super Bowl Media Day with them is like wandering into a roomful of Siris. Brady, Belichick, the Whoever who starts at defensive end -- they're all androids.

That sort of regimentation, of course, is why they're so good. But it's also why they're so boring.

And if it's the Falcons they're playing?

I suppose watching Matt Ryan reach the zenith of his career, in this zenith of a season for him, might be mildly interesting. But, seriously, does anyone outside of Atlanta really care a fig about the Falcons?

That's why I'm rooting for the Packers today. I don't have anything against Atlanta, and I'm certainly no Cheesehead, but watching Aaron Rodgers try to close this amazing run of his in the Super Bowl would be worth seeing. That might save the Super Bowl for me.

If not ...

Well, there's always the commercials. But I can record those.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The casualty list grows

And now a new dispatch from the darkened backstage of our great national spectacle, pro football, where the NFL has allegedly gotten religion on the human destruction that is the game's most notorious byproduct.

Remember Mark Gastineau?

Not so very long from now, he won't.

In a rambling interview, the flamboyant Jets pass rusher from the 1980s revealed he's suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. He is 60 years old. And he lays it squarely at the feet of his NFL career, when he famously, and constantly, led with his head, unaware he was turning his brain  into squash doing so.

Concussions in his time were just something you rubbed dirt on and got back out there if it happened, after all. And they continued to be long after there was substantial evidence that repeated concussions were causing early-onset brain damage in former players -- because the NFL consistently denied that evidence, even when it was produced by the league's own studies.

Belatedly, the NFL finally did initiate some concussion protocols, and instituted stiff fines for helmet-to-helmet hits. And yet those protocols seem remarkably elastic. The playoffs have already produced several instances in which players took wicked shots to the head -- and then were sent right back into the game, sometimes having missed only a play.

Meanwhile, the leader of the New York Sack Exchange has become sad object lesson of the consequences of that.

The carnage goes on. Unabated.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The coming apocalypse

No, not the imminent reign of the Huckster Elect and his merry band of saboteurs, rank amateurs and parolees from the lunatic fringe.

I'm talking about the imminent invasion of Cooperstown by the PED generation.

The Blob (in its previous incarnation) predicted this some time ago, but it looks like it's going to happen even sooner than it thought: Steroids Era violators are going to have plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame someday. At the same time Tim Raines, Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell got the Hall call yesterday, something else of interest emerged: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds both continued to gain ground toward the magic number of 75 percent of the votes.

Clemens polled 54.1 percent this time around, and Bonds 53.8 percent. Still a long way off, but a significant jump from last year, when Clemens got 45.2 percent and Bonds 44.3.

It's going to happen, folks. And that is as it should be.

Simply put, a Hall of Fame without the best player and best pitcher of their generation -- and in Bonds' case, one of the top five players of all time -- isn't much of a Hall of Fame. And, yes, the circumstantial evidence is strong that both used PEDs during their careers. But during the so-called Steroids Era, who did not?

The late Ken Caminiti once said that, during the 1990s, as much as 80 percent of Major League Baseball was using some form of the juice at some point in time. He was widely sneered at for that,  but the farther we get away from those days, the less fantastical it seems. And so the problem becomes, if you single out Bonds and Clemens and a few other notables for exclusion, how, if you're fair about it, do you not exclude everyone from that era?

Raines, Bagwell and Rodriguez are all contemporaries of Bonds and Clemens, after all. And while no evidence exists any of them juiced during the Time of Juicing, how do we know that for sure? Lance Armstrong passed every drug test they could think up, after all. And we all know how that turned out.

As for Raines, his career spanned both the Steroids Era and the Greenie Era -- i.e., the 1960s, '70s and '80s, when popping amphetamines to get you through day games after night games was a common practice. They were the magic beans that preceded the magic juice.

Look. The intention here is not to smear the three newest members of the Hall. Their numbers, and their contributions to baseball, speak for themselves. They are as deserving of induction as anyone who's come before them.

But their induction does highlight the essential quandary here: How do you put the Steroids Era in its proper context? The Hall itself cracked open the door to this question last year, when it inducted Bud Selig -- who oversaw the Steroids Era, and who enabled it for a long time because all those performance-enhanced athletes were making the owners who signed Selig's paycheck a lot of money. And who needed something to save the game after they blew it up with the 1994 strike.

How does that not muddy these waters even further?

And how do we determine who gets in and who doesn't from that time?

The Blob has always maintained Bonds and Clemens should get in, because the timeline for both players' alleged PED use is pretty clear.  And both were Hall of Fame players before they ever touched the cream, the clear or the magic syringe.

Says here their voting percentages would be even higher were they not both utter jackwagons during their playing careers. There may be no official Miss Congeniality contest in the HOF voting, but there sure is an unofficial one.

The case for, say, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez is less clear, because both serially violated the PED protocols MLB belatedly laid down, and lied about it throughout. But even they will eventually be forgiven, because that's the way time works. It is the great softener of bias, and the great lender of context.

Context which can solve the Steroids Era quandary with one line added to the plaques of whatever Steroids Era violators someday enter the Hall: "Some of his numbers were accrued during what has come to be known as the Steroids Era."

Simple as that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A fair shake

And now the latest entry in the Blob's Favorite Coaches You Probably Haven't Heard Of Sweepstakes, which you probably hadn't heard of, either, on account of the Blob just invented it.

Today we spotlight Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, a man of evident good humor and perspective who displayed both last night at the end of a contentious 78-68 win over Rider. After a scuffle at the end of the game led to the ejection of two players, Rider coach Kevin Baggett chose to take his team off the floor rather than risk another altercation in the handshake line.

This seemed a reasonable breach of etiquette even to Patsos, who defended Baggett's actions in the postgame. Nonetheless -- and this is the best part -- Patsos chose to pantomime going through the handshake line, anyway, shaking hands with each imaginary Rider player and coach before heading off the locker room.

Gotta love that kind of whimsy in a coach.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Media non-matters

Sometimes even an old media guy like me has to shake his head. OK, a lot of times. OK,  so most of the time.

Nothing amuses/disturbs/makes me sigh in exasperation more than the media's tendency to turn chicken, uh, scratch into chicken salad, or at least attempt to do so. And so now we have this story/non-story out of Pittsburgh, in which Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown posted a locker room video of head coach Mike Tomlin supposedly trashing their next opponent, the New England Patriots.

I say "supposedly" because, no matter how the media's spinning this, he did nothing of the kind.

What he said was, because of the playoff schedule that had the Patriots playing Saturday and the Steelers playing Sunday, the Steelers had "spotted these a**holes a day and a half" of preparation. The media's take was, gasp, he called the Patriots "a**holes." But go back and read it again. Now put it in its proper context.

Which is that Tomlin merely said the Steelers had spotted their next opponent a day and a half in preparation.

Yes, he used the word "a**holes." But that clearly wasn't specific to the Patriots. Had the Steelers been playing the Texans or the Broncos or the Colts next, his terminology would not have been any different. They all would have been These A**holes, as in "These a**holes we play next."

And yet the headlines were all about Tomlin dissing the Patriots.

Please, fellow media folk. Try a little harder, will ya?

Monday, January 16, 2017

A swift trip to Irsayville

And now a quick sidetrip away from the god-like Aaron Rodgers, the android-like Mason Crosby, the who-needs-a-touchdown Steelers and the looming prospect of more Patriots more of the time ...

Let's check out what's happening in Irsayville, aka, the Indianapolis Colts, aka the Cone Of Silence Is Real, And Look How Well It Works.

When last we left head coach Chuck Pagano, we thought we were leaving him at last, or he, us. It's been two weeks since he did his season post-mortem for the gentlemen and ladies of the Indianapolis media, with the ladies and gentlemen figuring it was his last such performance. But Black Monday became Maybe Tuesday became What The Hell's Going On Wednesday, and there's been nothing but silence from the complex out on 56th Street in Indianapolis.

Pagano's still the coach. Ryan Grigson's still the general manager. Apparently. For the time being.

Meanwhile, the rumors swirl, as they will in any information vacuum. Irsay has been wooing Jon Gruden. Irsay has been wooing Peyton Manning. Irsay has been holding séances, trying to contact Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi.

OK, so I made up that last one. Although who knows?

This is, after all, Irsay we're talking about, the NFL's moonchild. And so you never know. The Gruden and Manning rumors, apparently, are legit. The Blob understands the latter, understands the former less so. Gruden, after all, has been out of the game for eight years. Yes, he still does all that analysis for ESPN, and he still works with young quarterbacks, sort of, in that role. But that dynamic is completely different than being a head coach, and anyone thinking straight knows it.

No matter how much he keeps up with the game, the sidelines are still the sidelines. Outside looking in is still a completely different view than inside looking out.

So, the Blob remains skeptical about retrieving Gruden from the closet, still smelling of mothballs. And it remains, like everyone else, mystified by this entire episode.

All it knows, like everyone else, is the longer this goes on -- the more Irsay fails to say definitively he's sticking with Pagano and Grigson -- the more embarrassing a spectacle it becomes. If Irsay is having this tough a time selling one of the NFL's perennial winners, what's that say about the state of the franchise? What's it say about how it's now being perceived?

The presumption when Ringling Bros. announced it was closing shop over the weekend was that the clown show about to take power in Washington needed the tent. But maybe it's something else.

Maybe it's the clown show at 56th Street that needs it.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shallow thoughts

... on yesterday's NFL divisional games (aka, The Two Games We Had To Sit Through To Get To The Two Games People Actually Care About, Which Are Today):

1. Oh, goody. The Patriots won. One step closer to going to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday.

2. (Because, come on, it's the Patriots. Like we need to see that again.)

3. Hats off to the Falcons. Whose team motto is "Raising False Hopes Since 1966."

4. (Because you know they're gonna lose next week. They're the Falcons. It's what they do.)

5. And last but not least ... you think the Seahawks and Texans had a bad day? That's nothing compared to the string of bad days the "Los Angeles" Chargers have been having since announcing they're leaving San Diego to go back to a city they couldn't make it in before.

6. A string of bad days which culminated in getting booed at a Clippers game.

7. (Because, you know, that'll happen when you're moving to a city that DOESN'T WANT YOU.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Your transcript for today

Or, "How The Chargers Came Up With Their Ridiculous New Logo, Which Looks Exactly Like The Dodgers Logo, Except It's Italicized And Has A Lightning Bolt On The End."

(As seen here).

The transcript:

(Morning. Chief Designer's office of the now-Los Angeles Chargers).

VP In Charge Of Something; OK, we need a new logo.

Chief Designer: Ah, man. Today was supposed to be my day off.

VPICOS: Well, we all have to make sacrifices.

CD: Well ... um ... OK. How about we just italicize this and add a lightning bolt?

(Holds up Dodgers logo).

VPICOS: Uhhh ... that's the Dodgers logo.

CD: Yeah, but ... come on. No one's gonna notice that.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What all the cool kids are doing

Why, moving to Los Angeles, of course!

It's the New Old World for the National Football League, which left it 20 years ago and had been pining to come back since. Last year, the Rams moved back, where they entertained L.A. -- craving the return of pro football the way a gourmand craves food, or so we were told -- with a product they advertised as "pro football," but which looked less like it than what USC and UCLA were playing on Saturdays.

And now?

Now the Rams, who went 4-12 in their return to L.A., are apparently being joined by the Chargers, who went 5-11 down in San Diego. This is doubly fine news for the NFL, and less doubly fine news for Los Angeles -- which, remember, didn't support the Chargers the first time they were in town, in the Bolts' inaugural season of 1960.

After one season of playing to yawns, they Bolted to San Diego. This despite the fact the inaugural Los Angeles Chargers were actually very good, playing in the AFL's first championship game at the end of the '60 season.

Imagine how well this version of the Chargers will go over!

The 1960 L.A. Chargers had a Hall of Fame coach, Sid Gillman, and a quarterback, Jack Kemp, who should be in the Hall of Fame, and a running back, Paul Lowe, who's in the Chargers Hall of Fame. The new L.A. Chargers have Philip Rivers and Joey Bosa and, um, some other guys.

Hard to imagine how L.A. won't fall in love with the latter after not falling in love with the former. Eyeroll.

And, sure, OK, this is not 1960. Pro football wasn't the Colossus standing bestride American sport the way it is today. So probably more people are going to show more interest in the Chargers (And the Rams! Don't forget the Rams!) than they did the first time around.

But track records are persistent things, and the fact is, L.A.'s track record as a pro football town is spotty at best. Four different franchises (the Chargers, the Rams, the Raiders and the Express of the USFL) have fled the place, after all. Does anyone seriously believe the city will find room in their USC-loving hearts for not just one but two chronic losers -- unless, that is, those losers turn into winners?

Winners, L.A. will support. Even if they do play on Sundays instead of Saturdays.

Sunday football. Why, how ... quaint.

Enigma walk

In the end, maybe it was as simple as this: He was just tired of it.

Tired of the spotlight. Tired of the almosts. Tired of the week-in, week-out grind, the long hours away from the sanctuary of family and Missouri; tired of the reality that every time he climbed in a race car, the odds in his favor grew shorter and shorter.

There were no definitive answers from Carl Edwards yesterday, on a day that begged for some. No one (OK, hardly anyone) walks away from his profession when he's at the very pinnacle of it, especially a profession that offers so many rewards as NASCAR does. Edwards is, after all, only 37 years old, and he has won 28 times on NASCAR's premier circuit, and the last we saw of him at Homestead, he was a handful of laps from his first Cup title until he tried to block Joey Logano on a late restart and wrecked them both.

That opened the door for Jimmie Johnson to win his seventh title. And it was the second time in five seasons Edwards has been thisclose to the ring, the first time coming in 2011 when he couldn't quite run down Tony Stewart at the same Homestead track, and lost the championship in a tiebreaker.

And so to yesterday, when he announced he was stepping out of his Joe Gibbs ride, effective immediately. The Daytona 500, and the start of another season, is barely a month away. Edwards quite reasonably would have among the favorites to win the 2017 Cup title. Instead ...

Instead, he's calling quits, although he was ambivalent about whether or not it was for good. That was the only thing that made sense about yesterday, except for one thing.

Which is that Edwards never seemed to have racing in his blood, at least to the degree Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon or so many others do.

Stewart, who announced last year he would retire at the end of the 2016 season, could shatter a leg on a dirt track in a sprint car, and suffer a devastating emotional blow when he accidentally killed another driver in another sprint car on another dirt track, and he would always climb back in the car. Ditto Gordon, who endured excruciating pain from a back injury but kept getting behind the wheel.

Ditto their contemporary racing guru, Dale Earnhardt -- who got busted up in a devastating crash at Talladega one year, then came back against the advice of doctors to start the Brickyard because, well, it was the Brickyard. And it was what he did.

It crawls inside you, racing does. Unless it doesn't.

It's surely not for any of us to say that's how it is with Carl Edwards, but there have been clues. Away from the track, at every opportunity, he heads back to Missouri and his family as quickly as he can, where he zealously protects his privacy. He is as guarded in his public persona, playing the necessary  role of NASCAR Star as a friendly, cordial, willing participant, but not one given to familiarity. He always seemed to go along with the trappings of his profession because he was good at his profession, not because he was its captive.

Again, that may be a completely inaccurate read. But it lends itself to the simplest explanation for yesterday.

Maybe he was just tired of it.

If so, it's understandable, because it is a grind, 36 races spread across just 39 weeks, three weekends off between mid-February and late November. And every week, because it's racing and imminent peril is part of racing, the possibility exists you're going to climb into your ride and not climb out whole. That, too, was apparently part of the equation; Edwards admitted that Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season-ending concussion issues weighed heavily on his decision to walk away.

Tired of the risk?


Tired of all the rest of it?

Maybe. Just maybe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Meanwhile, in women's hoops ...

Time now to check in with women's college basketball, where we find UConn -- what a shock! -- winning its 90th consecutive game for the second time in the Geno Auriemma regime. And just to show what a difficult thing that's been for the Huskies to achieve, they got No. 90 in the usual hard-fought fashion.

Which is to say, the Huskies squeaked past No. 20 South Florida 102-37.

Let's repeat that: They beat another ranked school by 65 points.

Much has been made of UConn's comic dominance of women's buckets, and whether it's good or bad for the game. The Blob is of two minds on this.

Mind No. 1 says it's been good in the sense that other programs have had to raise their games to at least nominally keep up. Which is why, minus UConn, the women's game is as competitive as it's ever been.

Mind No. 2 says when UConn is still beating those other programs by 65 points, it can't possibly be helping the women's game get its improved product in front of the public.

This is because as good as the women have become, the nation isn't going to watch as long as UConn remains on such an absurdly different level. Why watch the women's tournament in March, after all, when the outcome is already a foregone conclusion? All anyone's going to do is check in periodically to see if anything's changed.

Hey, let's check out the women. Oh, look, UConn is still beating everybody like they're in grade school. Well, nothin' to see here. Peace out.

There's no question about it: The best thing that could happen for women's basketball is for someone besides UConn to win the national title. Even better would be for the Huskies to unaccountably have a down year -- say, I don't know, 22-6 or something. That way other programs could emerge, and the nation would discover just how many other programs are out there, and how much improved they have made the product generally.

Strength, after all, is in the numbers. And not just the number 90.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tiger paws up

OK, OK, OK. So it was a hell of a game, apparently.

Clemson 35, Alabama 31 did a couple of noteworthy things, even as the Blob gave it a miss. It made a legend out of one player the way only big college games seem to do, even if you can't exactly regard players the way we used to in these professional-grade days. And it gave college football a new champion to crown, which frankly is the best thing that could have happened to the sport.

Mind you, Clemson is every bit the corporate enterprise Alabama is, but when a school's gone 35 years between national titles, somehow it feels different. And so when a former walk-on named Hunter Renfrow caught the winning touchdown pass with a second to play, it gave college football a sort of old-timey, cinematic feel again. That the winning coach went by the equally old-timey, cinematic name of Dabo Swinney -- has there been a more perfect southern football coach name since the days of Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan? -- only added to the illusion.

College football needs its dynasties, its USCs and Notre Dames and, yes, Alabamas. But it also needs a break from them occasionally, which is why the Crimson Tide failing to win its fifth national title in eight years was not a bad thing.

Besides, it spared us 'Bama coach Nick Saban's chronic Debbie Downerism in the wake of another championship. Has anyone ever appeared to enjoy winning less?

No problem for the effervescent Dabo, or for his star, quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson signed this one the way so many others have signed the big games, leading the Tigers to four touchdowns on their last seven possessions, bringing them back from 14 points down early, erasing two deficits in the last five minutes. And he did it with style.

"I just smiled right when they scored," Watson said after Alabama scored to take its last lead with 2:07 to play. "I seen the 2:01 on the clock [after the Tigers' kickoff return], and I just smiled and I just knew. I just told my guys, 'Hey, let's be legendary, let's go be great.'"

And so off he went and did it, the way Johnny Rodgers did it for Nebraska against Oklahoma back in the day, the way James Street did it for Texas against Arkansas, the way Vince Young did it for the Longhorns against USC. Deshaun Watson's name is up there with all of them now, and many more besides.

"The paw is flying on top of that mountain tonight," Swinney said,  referring to Clemson's signature orange logo with his signature turn-a-phrase flair.

And how do you not love that?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Your NFL wildcard weekend in one spasm of dumbness

And now the Jim Mora Memorial "Playoffs?!" Meme of the Week, in which predictable idiocy is even more idiotic simply because it was predictable ...

The idea that, had Odell Beckham Jr. not spent his day off on a boat in Florida a solid week ago, he would have CAUGHT ALL THOSE FOOTBALLS HE DROPPED, and THE GIANTS WOULD HAVE BEATEN THE PACKERS IN LAMBEAU.

In so many words, THAT IS RIDICULOUS.

First of all, the Giants lost 38-13, not 38-37 on a dropped pass in the end zone by Beckham.

Second of all, the boat trip was attended not just by OBJ by but by fellow wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.

Third of all, the three combined for 11 catches, almost half of Eli Manning's 23 completions.

 Fourth of all ... it was their day off.

And, yes, I know Get Off My Lawn Guy would tell you they should have spent that day in monk-like silence, sequestered away, poring over their playbooks the way a Responsible Professional would have. Because in Get Off My Lawn Guy's world (which resembles the real world only in passing), this is how Responsible Professionals spend every waking minute of every day before a game, and particularly a Playoff Game.

Why, you wouldn't catch any of the New England Patriots doing what Beckham and Co. did, because they're the New England Patriots, the very paragons of professionalism. I mean, this is Bill Belichick we're talking about. No way you'd catch HIM drowsing the day away on a boat the week before a playoff ga--

Oh. Wait.

Missing the Big One

I probably will not watch the College Football Playoff championship tonight.

This is not because I have anything against Alabama or Clemson, although I have zero rooting interest in either.

It is not because I have suddenly lost interest in the Big Event in sports, although I've covered enough of them that the shine has worn off.

It's also not because I have anything against college football in particular. I love college football. In 38 years as a professional sportswriter, the morning of a big game on a college campus might have been my favorite thing. It's something I still miss, that electricity, that energy, and it's what elevates college football from the soulless corporate product the pros put out there on Sunday afternoons.

But 2 1/2 years away from the games have taught me that, amazingly, I can live without them. A year or so ago, not being fans of strong-arm robbery, we dumped our cable TV. And so the former sportswriter lives these days without ESPN, which broadcasts the game tonight.

Oh, I'll keep up with the game online, to be sure. But only sporadically. And only because I still wield this Blob -- which, along with freelancing, has become my way of keeping my hand in as a sportswriter.

After almost four decades, it does get in your blood. You love it in a way few others love their professions, because, come on, who wouldn't? And so I'm still compelled to feed the monster sometimes.

What I don't have to do now is feed it all the time, which is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be when I walked away. And if you're asking now, "Wait, I thought you said you loved college football" ... well, I do. I'm just not sure what we'll be seeing tonight is college football, or at least what I remember college football being.

What'll be on display tonight, after all, is a Big Event that will be little different from the Big Events the NFL puts on. It'll be every bit as professional an enterprise, Alabama Amalgamated vs. Clemson Conglomerated. As programs, as organizations, they are major corporations virtually indistinguishable from than any other major corporation. They could practically trade shares of themselves on Wall Street.

Sorry. But that isn't college football to me.

College football to me is the Army-Navy game, which is why it's the only appointment viewing in the sport for me these days. Actual students play in that game. Actual future generals and admirals play in it, not future pros trying to upgrade their draft status. The pageantry surrounding it is organic, not the sort of stagecraft we'll see tonight.

l I find that refreshing. I find it, as an old guy who loves a nostalgia wallow the way all old guys love nostalgia wallows, enormously satisfying.


I'm sure it'll be a great show.

I'm sure I won't miss it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Playing the disrespect card

You are right, Ryan Anderson. We do not respect Alabama.

We think you are overrated.

We think Clemson is going to beat you.

We think you are the scrappy underdog in this College Football Championship tale, the team no one believes in, the team that all of those media people are talking about as if Clemson could beat it.

We don't respect you.

Mainly, that's because you're saying all or most of the above, and it's so absurd that, yes, we are laughing at you.

It was media day for the CFP title game yesterday, see, and that was the takeaway from the Alabama camp. Anderson, the linebacker who has 17 sacks this year for the nation's top-ranked defense, led the way, saying they don't feel they're the favorite in this rematch with Clemson.

"We do feel like we're underdogs right now," Anderson said, joined by several other players who say they're annoyed by all the speculation in the media about how Clemson could beat the Crimson Tide this time.

And now we interrupt this lavish pity party for a few inconvenient facts.

Fact: Alabama is 14-0 and has won its last 26 games.

Fact: Except for a 48-43 win over Ole Miss and a 10-0 win over LSU, it's barely been challenged this season.

Fact: It dispatched Washington 24-7 in the national semifinals and looked as if it never got out of second gear.

And last but not least ...

Fact: It's actually a touchdown favorite over the Tigers.

But just as some folks never the let the facts get in the way of a good story -- I'm looking at you, Mr. President-elect -- the Tide isn't going to let the fact they're a hefty favorite get in the way of playing the aforementioned scrappy underdog. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book, playing the disrespect card. And in this case, it's one of the most ludicrous.

Listen. No one, and I mean no one, is disrespecting Alabama. Trying to claim otherwise is simply a keep-it-humble ploy that has Nick Saban's fingerprints all over it. He's renowned for laying into his team as it roams the landscape crushing everything in its path. Don't get a big head. You guys aren't that good. Wait we will be play the Patriots!

The truth, of course, is that the Tide clearly knows how good it is. It wouldn't be putting on this ridiculous disrespect charade if it didn't. It's like the practical joke you struggle to keep a straight face about.

But, see, we're onto them. We're onto them, because, even as they say they don't feel like favorites, they also get annoyed when analysts talk about how Clemson could beat them. And whydo they get annoyed about that?

Because they actually believe there's no damn way Clemson can beat them.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

An idea whose time has come

An old joke, as the Blob ponders what the NCAA is pondering these days: I took my 5-year-old son to a Notre Dame football game once. He had his degree by the time it ended.

Which is to say, I used to love covering college football, and I also hated it. I loved it because there's nothing like the Notre Dame campus (or any major campus, really) on the morning of a big game. There is pageantry. There is electricity. There is ESPN Gameday, occasionally.

Of course, there is also the two weeks it takes to actually play the game. Which is what I hated.

I saw absolutely no reason why a football game that kicked off at 3:42 in the afternoon should, on too many occasions, not end until going on 7:30. The good news is, finally the NCAA sees absolutely no reason why that should happen, either.

The poobahs whose job it is to maintain the fiction that professional athletics on the college level aren't professional have decided, sort of, that too much of as good thing is not a good thing. And so they're looking for ways to shorten the games.

The impetus for this are some unpleasant numbers: In four years, the average length of a college football game has shot up seven minutes, from 3 hours, 17 minutes to 3:24. This is much too long, by the NCAA's lights. The trick will be doing something about it.

Because college football under its auspices is, after all, professional, someone has to pay the freight. That someone is TV advertisers. TV advertisers pay big dollars to put their products out there, which is a major reason why games now run so long. It's unlikely they're going to agree to cut back on their commercial time, since agreeing to pay more for less has never been a solid business model.

So what else do you do?

The NCAA has always been loathe to copy the NFL, even as it copies the NFL. So it has different rules than the NFL. Those rules also contribute to the length of college games.

Maybe the NCAA needs to rethink some of those rules. Because, A) it really isn't all that much different than the NFL, in terms of ethos, and B) the rules the NFL has in place to speed up games, such as starting the clock in situations college football doesn't, actually work. It's a rare NFL game that runs much past three hours, which the Blob has decreed is the appropriate length for a football game.

I mean, let's face it. Chris Schenkel used to rhapsodize about those lovely Saturday afternoons in the fall. He never rhapsodized about those lovely fortnights in the fall.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Your completely cynical question for today

So ... if Duke doesn't get waxed 89-75 by Virginia Tech in the first game of Grayson Allen's "indefinite" suspension, does his "indefinite" suspension last more than one game?

Just asking.

Meanwhile, at College Hoops Central ...

That was a quaint little missive the Big East sent out the other day, reminding everyone that storming the court is Strictly Forbidden in the Big East, and carries an automatic $5,000 fine. Bless their hearts. They actually thought that would work.

Because, of course, it did't.

It didn't, because when you beat the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time in one of the storied basketball venues in America, well, stuff happens. And so the Butler faithful stormed the court at Hinkle last night after the Bulldogs took down top-ranked and defending national champion Villanova 66-58, incurring a fine that will be easily be paid by any number of volunteers.

It was as big a moment as college basketball in Indiana is going to see this year, unless something happens between now and March in Bloomington or West Lafayette or South Bend. And something could, of course. As the Blob noted yesterday, it's a long way to the Madness.

But until then, trying to argue that Butler isn't at this moment the ascendant basketball program in the basketball state is as fruitless a venture as keeping the students off the floor when No. 1 goes down. With Indiana struggling and Notre Dame and Purdue just starting their journey to whatever awaits them in the ACC and Big Ten, Hinkle is the epicenter of college hoops in Indiana.

And the rushing the court thing?

It's a dangerous and stupid practice, frequently abused. But, as the Big East learned last night, completely unavoidable in certain circumstances.

And God bless the 'Dogs, last night the circumstances were certain.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Panic time. Or not.

The sky is falling down there in Bloomington, coming down in shiny little candy-striped pieces, dusting the hair of the faithful as they wring their hands and wail "Freefall!" because Tom Crean Can't Coach and The Hoosiers Can't Guard A Locked Door and Why Wasn't (Fill In The Blank) On The Floor When It Counted, Anyway?

Or, you know, something like that.

To be sure, no one thinks these are the sun-kissed days in B-Town, not with the Hoosiers having lost three straight -- including two in Assembly Hall, their previously unassailable fortress. Good lord, a football school beat them in the Hall (Nebraska). Then Louisville beat them by 13 in a game that looked as if the Cardinals won by 25. Then came Wisconsin last night, a 75-68 loss in which the Hoosiers had no ball movement, no perimeter defense -- Wisky dropped 10 3s on them -- and a bunch of the wrong people on the floor at far too many crucial times.

So, they're now 0-2 in the Big Ten and 10-5 overall, having lost four of their last six. The sky is in shards. Air-raid sirens are going off. The end times have come.

To which the Blob offers a public service announcement: March Madness is still 69 days away.

In other words, it's an eternity until March, and so, pump the brakes, people. Indiana may look like a hopeless muddle now, but history offers numerous examples of teams that looked like hopeless muddles 69 days out from the Madness. And some of those teams wound up cutting down the nets at the end of it.

No one suggests Indiana will do that; the Hoosiers don't have enough inside presence nor play enough defense for that to be a likely outcome. But they are not as bad as they're playing right now. If they're the team that lost to IPFW and Nebraska, they're also the team that beat Kansas and North Carolina.

They've got skills. They've got players. What they don't have right now is an identity
that doesn't involve negatives -- too much dribbling, too many turnovers, not enough urgency when urgency would seem to be required.

The good news is, all of that is correctible. And there is an eternity left in which to correct it.

That's happened to teams before, as the Blob noted. A number of years back, for instance, there was a basketball team that, on just about this date, looked hopelessly at sea, too. It had lost three of its last five games -- including one to Texas-Rio Grande Valley, an IPFW-esque defeat. Going into  conference play, it was 7-5 and seemed destined for oblivion.

Instead, the 1980-81 Indiana Hoosiers wound up, yes, cutting down the nets at the end of the Madness.

Again, no one suggests this Indiana team is that one. But ... perspective, people. A little perspective, please. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Saving the CFP

Somewhere out there, one presumes, someone wearing a College Football Playoff blazer (because surely there are blazers involved in this deal) is sending Matt Boermeester a flowergram this morning. Or should be, anyway.

Some gratitude surely is due the CFP to USC's placekicker, after all, for saving it from a further onslaught of second-guesssing. By nailing a 46-yard field goal as time expired, Boermeester not only ended one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever played, but put it in USC's column by a final score of 52-49. It capped an epic comeback from 17 points down by the Trojans, and by extension an equally epic choke by the Nittany Lions of Penn State.

Penn State, of course, being the champions of the Big Ten.

Penn State, of course, being the team that beat Ohio State, which didn't even get to the Big Ten championship game, but somehow was placed in the four-team playoff by those aforementioned CFP blazers.

Egg was already adorning their faces for that one, but they'd have looked really silly if Penn State, which dominated much of the second half, had hung on to win the Rose Bowl over a team many thought actually was one of the top four teams in the nation as the season ended. The  ballyhooed eye test said so, but apparently the CFP reserved the eye test only for Ohio State.

Who, of course, discredited the validity of that by getting smoked 31-0 by Clemson in the national semifinal.

People were already wondering if perhaps the actual Big Ten champion might have made a better showing. Had they won the Rose Bowl, they'd likely have been wondering even louder.

If they're not anyway.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fans Are Stoopid, Part 3,457

So now comes news that dumbness didn't die with 2016, in fact it apparently gained new life from the turning of a new year, which means we can look forward to even more stunning dumbness in 2017.

(And not just because Training Wheels Mussolini and his merry band of bootlicks and conspiracy kooks are about to inflict their own special brand of craziness on us. But you can't discount that.)

No, this dumbness comes from a fertile source, aka, unhinged fans of various sports teams. In this particular case, it's a couple of fans of Ohio State football, who decided to heap internet abuse on Buckeyes' placekicker Tyler Durbin because he missed a couple of early field-goal attempts.

In, um, a 31-0 loss to Clemson.

Those even mildly conversant with math would point out here that, had Durbin made the two field goals, Ohio State would have still gotten smoked 31-6. But, of course, him missing those field goals so bummed out the Buckeyes that they were overwhelmed by a Clemson team they could have beaten if only A) Durbin had made the field goals, and B) they were actually close to being as good as Clemson, which they weren't.

Sorry, folks. You got beat because you were playing an obviously superior team.  The truth hurts.

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 17

And now this year's final edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the astonishingly weekly Blob feature of which astonishingly casual readers have said "Well, it does come every week, I'll give it that" and "It's really bad, but  at least it's regular, so that's something":

1. The Colts!

2. Pulled off a finish for the ages!

3. (Well, OK. So not for the ages, considering all it did was get them to 8-8 and still out of the playoffs.)

4. (A finish for the week, then?)

5. (OK. Fine. A finish for the day.)

6. Meanwhile, Tony Romo!

7. Put down the clipboard! Put on a helmet! Played!

8. In a game that didn't matter, either!

9. In other news, the Packers continued to be the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers continued to be Aaron Rodgers.

10. As opposed to, you know, those other guys from earlier in the year, the Green Bay Hey, Where Did The Packers Go? and Aaron "Hey, That Kinda Looks Like Aaron Rodgers, Only It's Not Because He's Playing More Like Rodgers And Hammerstein" Rodgers.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Contenders and pretenders

Couple of brief thoughts this a.m. on the 2017 College Football Playoff, which looks a lot like the 2016 College Football Playoff and likely will have the same ending:

1. "We could have done better than that" (Any number of teams who are not Washington and Ohio State after watching Washington and Ohio State last night)

2. "Why were we here again?" (Washington and Ohio State)

The latter, of course, being the question everyone's asking after Alabama crushed the Huskies 24-7 with one hand tied behind its back, and Clemson flat-out embarrassed the Buckeyes 31-0. There were any number of folks who questioned Washington's presence in the CFP in particular, and those people were vindicated. So were those who wondered how Ohio State got in when it couldn't even get into its conference championship game, and lost to the team that won it.

Would Penn State have put up less of a fight against Clemson than the Buckeyes?

I don't know. But I seriously doubt it.

This is the ultimate folly of going by the fabled "eye test" instead of by hard results: The real eye test comes later, when you realize too late that the team you eye-tested into the playoff clearly didn't belong there. Because, yes, everyone in America could see Clemson simply was a superior football team in every way.

And now?

Eye test says Alabama in the rematch with Clemson. By (if we are lucky as we were last year) the thinnest of margins.