Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Your question for today

You know how Cubs fans like to raise their "W" flags when their Lovable Winners win -- especially now, seeing how they've won the World Series and all?

This just in from Arizona: The Lovables and the White Sox played to a 4-4 tie yesterday. This, you know, being spring training and all, and not, you know, regular baseball.

So what does the discerning Cubs fan do with that, vis-a-vis the "W" flag?

Fly it at half-staff?


Monday, February 27, 2017

Still not getting it

Well. At least she apologized.

But Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey gets minimal credit for that, precisely because she is the women's basketball coach at Baylor. Which is to say, she gets no benefit of the doubt here, because her school gets no benefit of the doubt. That's what it's earned for its coddling of a football program that by all accounts was coddling runaway sexual assault.

A university, or any entity, develops a culture deliberately, by either its actions or its inactions. Baylor's inaction in dealing with the criminal element in its football program -- and its action in allegedly discouraging and/or intimidating the alleged victims of that element -- has created a culture in Waco at startling odds with its Baptist tradition. And it's earned the school the lawsuit from one of the alleged victims claiming that, in the last four years, 31 players have committed 52 acts of sexual assault.

The university has purged itself of all the main characters in this awful business, but, as Mulkey demonstrated, the culture of denial continues. Her upon-further-review bit of damage control notwithstanding, Mulkey's knee-jerk first reaction speaks far more loudly. It was, after all, pure Baylor, or what a lot of the country has come to see as pure Baylor.

And so, sorry, Coach, but, yes, I do have a daughter, and I wouldn't let her within 50 nautical miles of Baylor. And I don't care if you or some other Baylor apologist punches me in the face for saying so, as you suggested before coming to your senses. And I really don't care if you're tired of hearing about all of this, as you also said.

 Want to know why?

Because in saying it, you were displaying the exact reason why I wouldn't let my daughter within 50 nautical miles of Baylor. By saying you're tired of hearing about sexual assault, see, you unwittingly echoed the mindset of your school, in my opinion. And you just as unwittingly revealed that your school still doesn't take the concerns of its coed population and their parents seriously. Like you, it just wants all of it to go away.

Which is exactly why it won't, and shouldn't.

And now ... "Survivor: Daytona"

Or, "Can't these guys drive anymore?"

(The answer: "No. They can't. Shorten the rear wing, make 'em actually have to drive these cars, and they commence running into one another.")

So what else is there to say about "Survivor: Daytona," which ended yesterday with one of the few remaining old hands outfoxing a bunch of kids?

Well, here are a couple of points about the 59th running of the Daytona 500, or the Daytona 150/150/200, or The Great American Duct Tape Orgy:

1. They sure did go through a lot of duct tape.

That was the relevant stat we didn't see: Exactly how much duct tape did everyone use to hold all those battered hulks together? It would have dovetailed perfectly with the relevant stat we did see, which went up on America's TV screens late in the race. It said that, out of 40 starters, 35 had been involved at least peripherally in one of the day's many crashes.

Only 15 cars, in the end, finished the race. And everyone with any experience was pretty much gone except for Kurt Busch. Who of course sat back and watched Chase Elliott drop out of the front of the freight train in the waning laps as his gas tank went dry, thus taking himself out of it. Kyle Larson then moved to the front, where, when his fuel began to run out, he was a sitting duck for the crafty old pro Busch to gobble him up on the last lap.

Show of hands: When Busch popped up in third with 20 or so laps to run, is there anyone who didn't think he was going to wind up your winner?

2. Welcome to stage fright, America. Enjoy.

Or, you know, not. The Blob votes the latter.

As mightily as Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon up there in the booth tried to get everyone revved up about stage racing, NASCAR's latest harebrained idea, it was pure unadulterated manure for the discerning race fan. The long-view narrative of a 500-mile race was utterly lost; its sole substantive effect, in the end, was to give fans three last-lap sprints to a checkered flag instead of one.

The downside, of course, was that two of those sprints were entirely contrived. Did it change fuel strategy? Sure, but was that an upside? And how long will it be before teams figure out that the way you win the Big Checkered Flag is to plot strategy for 500 miles instead of  trying to outthink yourself by 150-mile increments?

Look. I get it. NASCAR's trying to gin up its product, and it thinks its audience doesn't have the attention span it used to. So it's breaking up its races into three short, easily digested bites. So why not just shorten the races, then? Or, to go the opposite direction, simply calculate the points at the end of each stage without disturbing the flow of the race?

I mean, NASCAR has been providing the media forever with race updates every 10 to 20 laps. So it's not like they need to bring everything to a screeching, manufactured halt twice in a race to figure out who comprises the top ten at (yesterday, at least) the 60-lap and 120-lap marks. Why not just let 'em keep racing and send out the 60-lap and 120-lap updates, with attendant "stage" points, to the media and the broadcast booth?

Of course, that might make too much sense.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hey, look, it's spring

All last week a lying imposter teased us, whispering that winter was done and spring had come. The air was a  caress. Crocus shoots pushed through the earth. Grass greened, birds awoke, the sun shone too benevolently by half, a warm hand on your shoulder that winked and said, "Hi. I'm really April, you know."

As if.

As if, because all of us knew that, come Saturday, snow would be flying again. The furnace would kick back on. And for the Blob, especially, there would be this sense that spring had jumped the gun -- because for the Blob, spring never begins until today.

Sunday. At sometime past 1 p.m. When 40 damn fools get their muscle cars out again, and wind 'em up, and the blat and snarl of unleavened horsepower goes up to the Florida sky above Daytona International Speedway.

Happy Daytona Day, as NASCAR is billing it. Happy unofficial first day of spring, is how the Blob bills it.

Dale Jr.'s out there again, thankfully, and, look, there's Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, and both the Busch boys, those goobers. There's Brad Keselowski, another goober. There's Kevin Harvick. And sitting on the pole, right where it belongs, there's old No. 24 -- except it's not Jeff Gordon in the seat now, it's Bill Elliott's boy, Chase.

Pretty soon they'll be freight-training around the place, and it'll be spring on my television screen -- or, better yet, summer. The Daytona 500 is where winter exits stage left for me, and if NASCAR doesn't thrill me the way it used to, it's still useful in that capacity.

Who's gonna win?

Hell, I don't know. Plate races are always a crapshoot, and maybe never more so than this year, with NASCAR itself jimmying with the natural order of these things with its three-stage nonsense. The dopes still think they can regain the un-regainable -- the absurdly unsustainable success of the late 1990s and early 2000s -- and their latest crack at it is to make the points system even more confusing than it already was. So a third of the way in today, they'll stop everything and count up points. Then they'll do it again at the two-thirds mark.

How did this come to be? I don't know how it came to be. I'm guessing a couple drinks too many at some midnight hour might have had something to do with it, though.

In any case, predicting Daytona just got a little harder. I'm guessing Chase Elliott doesn't win, because the polesitter hardly ever wins Daytona. You can bet Junior will be up there at the end, because he always is. And unless they get caught up in one of Daytona's usual messes, so will Hamlin and Logano and Truex and J.J.,and probably one or two guys you didn't count on, because that's how it goes at Daytona.

Wind 'em up, boys. Spring's awaitin'.

Reg Dunlop has your Oscar right here

Tonight is Oscar night, and you know what means, America. It means a bunch of actors and entertainers get to say mean stuff about the Child President.

(Which, frankly, is OK with the Blob. The Child President is only getting back what he's so abundantly dished out, after all. But I'd rather not hear actors do it, because, well, they're actors. I'd rather hear some Congress critters get up on their hind legs and do it -- although I recognize that, being Congress critters, most of them lack the anatomical requirements.)

At any rate,  it's Oscar night, and we'll get to see if the Other Affleck, Casey, wins for bumming out moviegoers in "Manchester By The Sea." We'll get to see if the Academy has truly rediscovered the musical ("Hey, look! A musical!") and hand "La-La Land" all the other Oscars. And we'll get to see if history most of America didn't know about, but should, gets properly honored thanks to the excellent "Hidden Figures."

I know one thing: Reg Dunlop will not be there.

Neither will the Hanson brothers. Neither will Ned Braden, Denis Lemieux, Joe McGrath, Dicky Dunn and -- oh, my God -- Ogie Ogilthorpe.

If you don't recognize any of these names, well, then go back to watching Emma Stone sing. And accept the pity of the rest of us, who consider you culturally deprived.

That's because all of the above are characters from "Slapshot," released 40 years ago this weekend. It's the greatest hockey movie ever made, an admittedly dubious honor. Needless to say, it will be nowhere to be found on Oscar night. That's probably because the Academy fears the Hanson brothers would drop the gloves and start something with the Afflecks, and that Ogie Ogilthorpe would perform an obscene act with one of the statuettes.

I mean, he's Ogie Ogilthorpe. It would be just like him.

Reg Dunlop -- played by Paul Newman in the film -- would probably just trash-talk everyone, because he was good at that. Joe McGrath, the team owner played by Strother Martin, would shout "Oh, (bleep) Eddie Shore," thoroughly confusing everyone. And Denis Lemieux, the French-Canadian goalie, would warn any Oscar loser tempted to make a scene about the soul-crushing (if temporary) properties of the penalty box.

"Two minutes, by yourself, you know," is how Lemieux put it in the film. "And you feel shame, you know. And then you get free."

Of course, the Blob realizes none of the above makes any sense to anyone not familiar with the film. The Blob does not apologize for this. If you are one of the aforementioned culturally deprived, that's on you. You could have been watching "Slapshot" instead of "Manchester By The Sea."

But suffice it so say "Slapshot" was sort of "Animal House" on skates, a completely ridiculous and obscene farce. And more fun than human beings should be allowed to have with their clothes on.

(Although not having clothes on sort of figures into "Slapshot," too. At least where Ned Braden is concerned.)

There were those immortal Hanson brothers, brought in to goon it up for captain Reg Dunlop's Charlestown Chiefs. There was Ogilthorpe, the quintessential goon. And of course there was Dicky Dunn, the sportswriter with the unimpeachable reputation.

It was glorious. And still as hilarious now as it was 40 years ago.

Of course, it's also one of those you-just-had-to-be-there deals. And so, while the rest of you settle in to watch the Oscars tonight, I know what I'll be doing.

I'll be puttin' on the foil, like the Hanson brothers. And waiting eagerly for Dicky Dunn's scrupulously accurate account of the proceedings.

Because, as everyone knows, if Dicky Dunn says it, it must be true.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Common sense takes a holiday

Someone much smarter than all of us once said you don't ever pick a fight with them that buys their ink by the barrel. You take on the press (or today's many ink-less versions) in a free society, you lose. Or you take steps to make it a less-free society.

Which is what our Glorious Leader, President Donald J. "Donny" Trump took the first baby steps toward yesterday by barring several news outlets -- including the New York Times -- from the White House press briefing. It of course did not have the desired effect, because the outlets that weren't barred immediately shared everything they got out of the press briefing with the barred outlets.

This is what happens, see, unless you're willing to go all the way and just take a jackhammer to the First Amendment. Which GL and his minions might yet do. It's hard to put anything past the Child President at this point. He is, after all, the Child President.

In the meantime, all their chuckleheaded stunt did yesterday was make their "news briefing" even more irrelevant than usual. These deals always to some extent have been setpieces for disseminating propaganda. Barring news organizations that dare to raise uncomfortable but pertinent questions only enhances that perception.

So your "news briefing" just becomes something to be ignored, and more fodder for SNL. And meanwhile serious news reported by serious journalists continues to be reported without interruption.

As the Blob has been known to say before: Damn these people are dumb.

And apparently it's catching.

Out on the opposite coast, see, Glorious Leader has a kindred soul, apparently. As reported by the website Deadspin, University of Oregon football coach Willie Taggart has decided he will no longer speak to the Oregonian because he's mad at one of their reporters for doing his job.

That reporter is Ducks football beat writer Andrew Greif, who last month broke the story that an offseason workout regimen landed three players in the hospital. This set off a kerfuffle in which the newly-hired strength coach was fired and Taggart formally apologized.

Apparently Taggart hasn't gotten over it. So he's banned Greif's news outlet for characterizing  workouts that landed three players in the hospital as excessive.

That seems like a reasonable conclusion to me. But what do I know?

I'm still interested in knowing what sort of shenanigans the president and his cabal of outliers and conspiracy kooks are up to with the Russians. Silly me.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A walk too far

So now comes the news that baseball is getting rid of the intentional walk, and I all I can say is, I hope a few of the old 1970s Oakland As are still around to see this. They must be having a good laugh, if so. Or, considering that group's Wild West rep, another drink.

I say this because I have a memory, admittedly hazy now, of As catcher Gene Tenace fake-signaling for an intentional walk, then squatting quickly back behind the plate during  the 1972 World Series against the Big Red Machine. The goofy, unconventional As upset the BRM in that Series, and one of the signature moments was Tenace signaling to put Johnny Bench on base, then squatting down as Rollie Fingers fired a third strike that caught Bench flat-footed.

That play never happens if the new rule baseball is instituting were in place -- i.e., a rule that now decrees an intentional walk no longer will be played out on the field with four pitches outside the strike zone, but will simply be signaled from the dugout.

It's all part of baseball's initiative to speed up the pace of play, which the Blob has applauded because, let's face it, the pace of play in baseball these days makes a crawl look like Helio Castroneves on a qualifying run at Indy. It's become in some cases like watching paint dry, only without the drama.

Here's the thing, though: Getting rid of the intentional walk robs the game of those delicious moments, albeit rare, when the pitcher screws up and the batter reaches across the plate and lines one of those lollipop intentional balls to the opposite field. It's the sort of flawed, human moment that makes our games worth the watching.

Plus, there are a million better ways to rev up the pace of play -- most of which involve enforcing rules already place.

For instance; You know those batters who constantly call time to adjust their batting gloves or their jocks or simply to collect their thoughts? That's a violation of the rules, and umpires shouldn't be granting them time in those instances. Instead, they should be saying "Your batting glove is fine. Get in there and hit or I'm counting you out."

I've always wondered, also, why a relief pitcher who's been warming up in the bullpen for 10 minutes needs another five or six or eight warmup pitches once he comes to the mound. No. Sorry. In my world, once you're on the mound, your next pitch is live. Get in there and pitch -- and no taking a long weekend between pitches, either.

There's a rule about that, too, see. And in my world, if you break it, it's a balk and the batter takes his base.

Of course, my world is not baseball's world.

More's the pity.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meanwhile, in Iowa City ...

... we check in with the Indiana Hoosiers, who rumor has it are still playing basketball, sort of, even if the point of doing so now eludes most observers.

Anyway, they lost their fifth straight game last night, falling to an unimposing Iowa team in overtime in Iowa City. Indiana is now 15-13 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten. And they still have to play Purdue and Ohio State on the road and Northwestern at home.

Anyone want to bet against them running the table in reverse -- i.e., they lose all three?

Because, listen, this is a team that looks for all the world as if it's checked out of the season. It looks like a team more interested in spring break than fastbreaks. And it's clearly a team even less interested in the quainter basketball custom of defense.

This would be occasion for the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments for Hoosier Nation, except it's pretty much checked out, too. That's not good news for head coach Tom Crean, whose job is likely safe despite the current death spiral. Bad seasons happen to good people sometimes. And so he'll live to keep firetomcrean.com a going concern for at least another year, because two Big Ten titles in four years have bought him that.

On the other hand ...

On the other hand, a silent fan base is a dangerous fan base. When your followers not only stop living and dying with your program but no longer bother even to gripe, the clock is running on Coach.

Even if, in Crean's case, it has a bit left to run.

Magic act. Maybe.

It's a hard dollar sometimes, being a presumptive savior. You're either Theo Epstein and get elevated to heights at which no mortal can survive for long, or you're Phil Jackson and track mud all over your legacy by picking petty fights with your star players and otherwise failing to save the day.

And so, out there on the opposite coast from Phil, we come to Magic Johnson, whose status as the Los Angeles Lakers icon of icons now hangs in the balance. His arrival in shining armor to save a Lakers franchise fallen on hard times carries with it the usual perils for those of his stature.

Which is to say, this goes one of two ways.

One, Magic displays razor-sharp business acumen and a deft understanding of the complexities of the modern NBA, and therefore does indeed turn the Lakers right-side up, becoming even more an icon than he already is.

Two, his disastrous stint as Lakers' coach presages what happens to him in the front office -- i.e., he fails utterly to get the complexities of the modern NBA, and finds himself unable to connect with today's players (or evaluate them) on any meaningful or effective level.

The Blob isn't betting one way or the other right now. Wait-and-see mode is now locked and loaded.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The divine wrong of Kings

That would be your Sacramento Kings, of course.

Who, on President's Day, made a total James Buchanan move, trading franchise center/serial problem child DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans for, basically, a hill of beans.

(Actually, it was for three guys who are not household NBA names -- Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway -- plus a second-round pick in this year's draft. Observers say it's the dumbest trade since A) Manhattan for beads, or B) Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio)

That's not what makes this the ultimate Kings thing to do, however. It's this.

Not to impugn the quantity or quality of brain cells in the Sacramento front office, but who does this except the Kings? Publicly acknowledging you had a better deal on the table and didn't make it? I'm sorry, what?

Look, it's one thing to make a bad deal. It's a whole other thing to make a bad deal and then admit you could have made a less-bad deal and didn't do it. I mean, can you imagine anyone else in professional sports -- even someone who works for the Cleveland Browns -- saying what Vlade Divac said?

REPORTER: Theo, you just traded Rizzo and Bryant for a bucket of spackle and a rendering of Elvis on velvet. Explain yourself.

THEO EPSTEIN: Well, yesterday we could have gotten Max Scherzer, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in a three-way deal, but we decided not to.

Or how about this?

REPORTER: Jim, you just traded Andrew Luck for Sammy Baugh's mummified remains. What's up with that?

JIM IRSAY: Well, we could have had Aaron Rodgers straight up, but did you ever see Baugh throw a football? They didn't call him Slingin' Sammy for nothin'.

Dumbness. In Sacramento, it's what's for dinner.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Your non-news for today

Which is not the same as "fake news." Fake news is made-up news, such as when President Donald J. "Donny" Trump says ... well, pretty much anything. Non-news is true, but it just doesn't matter.

And so to the NBA All-Star Game, which did not matter, and which was basketball only if you turned your head at a certain angle and squinted real hard. In this year's version, the West All-Stars beat the East All-Stars 192-182. The East stars took 137 shots in 48 minutes. The West stars squeezed off 143. Game MVP Anthony Davis took 39 by himself, finishing with an All-Star game record 52 points.

There might have been a defensive play made. Observers were unsure, and the evidence was unclear.

"Was that a defensive play?" one observer asked, in much the way you might ask "Was that Bigfoot?"

And, OK, so I jest. Of course there were no defensive plays. It's the NBA All-Star game.

Which has given the Blob a deliciously subversive idea.

You know how the dunk contest has pretty much become a joke, because all the gimmicks have been used up and MJ, Dr. J and Dominique Wilkins aren't in it anymore?

Well, the All-Star game itself  is a joke, too. But maybe, like the dunk contest, a gimmick or two could revive it for awhile.

What if you put a couple of guys on each team whose sole assignment was to play defense? Like, maniacal, ridiculously-inappropriate-to-the-occasion defense?  And what if one of the coaches, unannounced, played a full-court press for an entire quarter?

Sure, the players would hate it. They'd bitch and moan and say the All-Star Game wasn't intended to include defense, that it's basically just a showcase for players to exhibit their mad offensive skills. But that would be half the fun!

I mean, come on. It would.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


So at least NBA commish Adam Silver wants to think about this.

At least he wants to look at the NBA's unnecessary age limit, even if it's to make it worse -- he favors raising it to 20 from the current 19. But at least he wants to re-consider it, or so he said yesterday in his All-Star weekend news conference.

So that's something. God knows someone should be thinking about this, considering it's been so poorly thought-out to date.

Its substantive effect, after all, has been to damage the college basketball, in the sense that the sort of kids who used to jump to the NBA straight out of high school now must sit out a year before they can declare for the draft. This has resulted in a ludicrous situation: A select few players using college buckets as a waiting room for a year, and college coaches essentially prostituting themselves to get those players in hopes of making a Final Four run (and a run at a chunky contract extension, natch).

It's a complete sham on both ends of the dynamic, and even the principles know it. The players don't regard themselves as college students who have any particular loyalty to "their" school; they're just biding their time until their ship comes in. And the coaches don't really regard them as college students, either. It's simply a marriage of convenience for them.

Here's the problem: Silver casts abolishing this charade as some sort of conundrum, and it isn't one. He says the one-and-done thing has been overblown, because there aren't that many of them. He's right, but in pointing that out, he loses his own argument. Because if there aren't that many one-and-dones -- i.e., players who ordinarily would have declared for the draft right out of high school -- why is the 19-year-old rule necessary?

Silver frets that lowering the age limit to 18 raises troubling questions that would have to be considered. Yet the questions he raises have always been there. Why would they be issues now if they weren't when, say, Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant or LeBron James were coming to the NBA straight out of high school? And if the NBA is so concerned with the maturity level of those few 18-year-olds coming into the NBA, why not simply institute a rule that a player entering the NBA at 18 must play his first season in the D-League?

Its alleged purpose, after all, is player development.  It's right there in the name (or was, until Gatorade bought the title-sponsor rights the other day). So why not use the D-League for its intended purpose?

Give the kids a chance to learn how to be a pro. Let them find their professional footing in a less high-stakes environment.  Isn't that what the D-League does already?

Something else for Silver to think about.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Value city

So I see the proposed Fort Wayne downtown arena is in the news again, mainly because the proposed price tag has zoomed from $65 million to $105 million, which of course has everyone in a dither because that's what people get in a dither about in Fort Wayne.

(Whose civic motto, I once joked, should be "It's Good Enough."  And perhaps still should be, given the usual taxpayer griping over the Proposed Arena)

Anyway ... the question here is not whether or not $105 million is too much to pay for a downtown arena. Or whether or not the city needs a downtown arena. Or whether or not it specifically needs a downtown arena that seats north of 6,000 people.

This is because, as with Parkview Field a decade ago, this isn't really about need. Strictly speaking, there are any number of things we don't, or haven't in the past, needed: Parkview Field, the Children's Zoo, a state-of-the-art library, the Rivergreenway, on and on. None of those were about need. They were simply the things a community does to make itself a community worth the name. And they have all enhanced the quality of life in this city immeasurably -- and therefore enhanced its value for businesses and prospective citizens.

So the real question here is this: Will the value of a downtown arena match its price tag?

The Blob's answer: Who knows?

What I do know is that what a 6,000-plus arena adds to downtown is far less clear than what a downtown ballpark adds. Hop in the Wayback Machine and go back to the planning stages of Parkview Field, and you heard a lot of the same why-do-we-need-this caterwauling we're hearing now about the Proposed Arena. Yet the crabbing was largely confined to the usual suspects, because there were so many examples out there of similar ventures revitalizing moribund downtowns.

As Parkview Field has undeniably done.  A decade later, it is the jewel of the city (or at least one of them), feted as one of the top venues of its kind in the nation. And all of the caterwauling about it just sounds silly now.

And the Proposed Arena?

Maybe all the caterwauling about it will one day sound just as silly. But there's no denying that the dynamic is different this time. The ballpark had an anchor tenant -- the Wizards-TinCaps-to-be -- before the first spadeful of earth was turned. The Proposed Arena has no such condition. The Mad Ants are presumed to be the anchor tenant, but the Indiana Pacers to date have made no commitment to that. And even if it were so, why a team that barely draws 2,000 a night needs a building with a capacity three times that is a legitimate question.

The answer, according to those who unveiled the plans yesterday,  is that the arena would be a multi-purpose facility, capable of attracting musical acts too small for the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and yet too big for the Embassy or Foellinger Theater. There was also much talk about other athletic attractions, too.

(One of them being indoor football. Given that indoor football has failed at least four times in Fort Wayne already, this seems an especially fanciful notion)

In any case, it all seemed far more speculative than the ballpark talk a decade ago. Which means any skepticism about it seems far more legitimate.

Not to say far more rational.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Requiem for a bracket

So apparently the tradition of the President of the United States picking an NCAA Tournament bracket will die with President Obama, along with much else.

(A plan ... adulthood ... general sanity ... the Blob could go on)

Anyway, that's the word from Three Rings Of Fun, aka the Trump White House. The 45th president, Donald J. "Donny" Trump, will not be filling out a bracket for ESPN this year.

It's a development, of course, that all but cries out for a punchline. Being the occasionally mean-spirited entity it is, the Blob has helpfully provided a few, under the headline "Reasons Why President Trump Will Not Be Filling Out A Bracket":

1. Already surrounded by enough Madness.

2. Nation might discover he can't spell "Gonzaga."

3. Too easy to refute him when he claims to have picked every game correctly.

4. Putin advised him not to do it.

5. His all-time favorite player, Christian Laettner, isn't playing.

("The chest-stomping. Very impressive!" -- President Trump)

6. Although his second all-time favorite player, Grayson Allen, will be.

("The tripping. Very, very impressive!" -- President Trump)

7. Will interfere with national security meetings at wedding receptions.

8. Not enough opportunities to gloat some more over his "very impressive" election victory.

9. Terrorists might show up, because, you know, terrorists are everywhere.

10. Trump University won't make the field.

("Sad! So unfair!" -- President Trump)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A lesson in teamwork

We talk a good game, sometimes. Play together. Support your teammates. There's no "I" in "team."  All that.

Talking the talk is easy. Walking the walk ... not so much, sometimes.

And so raise a glass, or a chalice, or a championship trophy, to a group of fifth graders at a Catholic school in New Jersey, who decided recently all that talk actually meant something. Because of an oversight a few years back by their archdiocese, the boys basketball team at the school had included two girls, on account of the school didn't have a girls team. It never seemed to matter, until a few days ago.

That's when the team arrived for a game and was told, per the rules, that the girls would have to go or the team would forfeit the game -- and also the rest of the season, because the rules (those pesky, heretofore ignored rules) expressly forbid boys and girls from playing on the same team.

So, the team took a vote. All 11 team members voted to say, "Nah, that's OK. You can keep your season."

It was, sort of, the doppelganger of that scene in "Hoosiers" where the referee tells Gene Hackman he's short a player, and he points to the four players not occupying his bench and says, "My team's on the floor." That was echoed by one of the boys on the team in New Jersey, who, when told that refusal to ditch the girls would be the end of the season, gave the perfect answer.

"It doesn't matter," he said.

Exactly. Because, in the end, the games are just games. Shots, rebounds, numbers on a scoreboard. Meaningless outside the larger context, which is that the games are simply a whiteboard upon which to draw the larger lesson that pulling together is how you achieve anything of value in this world -- and that without the loyalty to one another that makes that possible, any victory is hollow.

With it, however, even a forfeit feels like victory.

It's something this bunch of fifth graders got instinctively, while too many of the adults around them did not. With an inflexibility entirely beside the point, they maintained that, it's too bad, but rules are rules.

Which is always the fallback position when you're wrong and you know it. Always.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Groundhog, schmoundhog

There is light in the sky now, on the drive to work. It is a gradual thing this time of year -- an imperceptible creep, really -- but there is always that moment in February, just about now, when for some reason or another it suddenly becomes noticeable.

The high-beams cutting through the darkness fade, like a diva departing the stage. Pale, streaky daylight replaces them. It's the first real sign, celebrated rodents notwithstanding, that winter might be loosening its grip, that you can actually whisper the word "spring" and not have it feel like sacrilege.

Of course, there's also this: Pitchers and catchers are reporting.

Some of them did so on Sunday, some of them yesterday, but a whole lot of them, including your World Series champion Chicago Cubs, are reporting today, on Valentine's Day. And so, instead of candy and flowers, we'll all soon be getting something far more heartwarming: Photos of various Cub heroes standing on lush grass under the bright high sky of Arizona, all those greens and blues and beiges standing out like something not quite real after the monochromatic months of winter.

Hang the calendar. Spring has sprung.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Free fallin'

So remember a month or so ago, when the Indiana Hoosiers were off the rails and Crimson Nation was Chicken Little-ing about, crying that the sky was falling?

The Blob, back then, said there was a lot of season left, and thus it was not yet time to panic.


Well. Today, the Blob acknowledges it's the perfect time to panic.

This after the Hoosiers lost their second straight game in their previously impregnable fortress, Assembly Hall, to a team (Michigan) not much better than they are. And by 12 points, no less.

It was their third straight loss, their fifth in the last six games, their ninth in the last 14. The only win in the last six games was over middling Penn State in the Hall -- and even then, they needed three overtimes.

To beat Penn State. At home.

At 15-11, 5-8 in the Big Ten, the NCAA Tournament is no longer a goal but a unicorn. Against Michigan, the Hoosiers certainly didn't look anything like a Tournament team. It looked instead like what it's been for the last six weeks: a collection of individuals with no identity playing without direction.

Shoot. Even head coach Tom Crean got flattened when a Michigan player, turning away from (of course) a made 3-pointer, accidentally bowled him over.

At least Crean got up. His team, on the other hand, looks as down for the count as Sonny Liston, lying flat on his back as Ali stood roaring over him.

That the Hoosiers miss the athleticism and length of OG Anunoby, out for the duration, is obvious. That they miss the court presence and glue provided by Colin Hartman, out since Day One, is also obvious. That leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. is still slowed by that unspecified leg injury -- in the two games he's played since returning, he's 5-of-21from the floor -- is obvious as well.

So, they're beat up. And they clearly miss the floor leadership of Yogi Ferrell, who's now doing his thing in the NBA despite all the people who said he'd never do his thing in the NBA.

What's left is a team, at least off the evidence from Sunday, that is not efficient or coherent enough on the offensive end to compensate for glaring deficiencies on the defensive end. Opponents continually break down Indiana defenders and then find smooth sailing to the rim because there is no, zero, nada, helpside defense. No one slides over to pick up anyone else's man, either because they haven't been coached up enough to do it without thinking about it, or simply don't possess the proper recognition.

Which of course would also be a coaching issue.

This does not necessarily mean Crean's head is on the block. He may be following the best coaching job of his life -- last year -- with the worst, but the injuries will likely give him an out with his athletic director, Fred Glass. And a lot would depend on who's out there who would be both available and a significant upgrade from Crean. It's probably fewer people than you think.

On the other hand, it might not be that much fewer. Especially if everything that's going south now continues to go south.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Your Throwback Sunday moment

... and, yes, the Blob knows it's supposed to be Throwback Thursday. But then, it's never been a particular respecter of memes, unless it's memes the Blob has made up itself, like, well, Throwback Sunday.

And so, for your viewing enjoyment, we bring you Florida Gators guard Canyon Barry, who is indeed another of Rick Barry's sons. The young Barry just proved himself to be a Canyon off the old block by setting the Florida record for most consecutive free throws made with 39.

And, yes, he did exactly the way Pops did: With that older-than-old-school underhand stroke.

Sure, it looks weird. Sure, it's an express-mail delivery from Dorksville, and also from your granddad's day -- aka Back Then We Played Defense And Didn't Hotdog It While We Were Taking The Ball Out Of The Peach Basket. And We Shot It With Both Hands!

Still ... there is something weirdly awesome about watching a guy shoot free throws underhanded in 2016. If you squint your eyes just right, it feels like time travel. Suddenly it's 1930 again and you're standing in a soup line while everyone wonders why Hoover doesn't get off his butt and do something about this doggone Depression.

Or, I don't know, suddenly it's 1975 and Pops Barry himself is playing again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dumb, meet dumber

And now we check in one more time on the Trainwreck That Walks Like An NBA Franchise, aka the New York Knick(ed)s, aka Public Relations? We Don't Need No Public Relations.

Let's go to the tape, shall we?

* First, here's the guy who built this mess of a team, Phil Jackson, sniping passively-aggressively once again at the team's star, Carmelo Anthony, because he isn't man enough to come out and say he doesn't want the guy, and also because he wasn't man enough to tell his owner he wasn't going to re-sign him. Now he's soured the relationship so badly it's rumored Carmelo will refuse any trade (he has a no-trade clause) just to spite Jackson.

Nice job, Phil!

* Moving right along, here's a video clip of Madison Square Garden security goons physically dragging Knicks icon Charles Oakley out of the arena after Oak got a little rambunctious the other night (or didn't, in Oakley's version). This was followed by a snotty tweet from the Knick(ed)s saying they hope he gets help soon.

Way to humiliate one of your all-time greats, Knick(ed)s!

* And now, there's this: Oakley has been banned from MSG, with Knick(ed)s owner/cartoon character James Dolan suggesting, sans proof, that Oakley has a drinking problem.

Way to continue humiliating (and possibly smear) one of your all-time greats, Knick(ed)s!

Can't wait for some usher to turn Clyde Frazier away at the door some night because he didn't recognize him.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The wheels on the bus

... go 'round and 'round. Especially when the bus driver is out of round.

St. Louis men's basketball was already having the dreariest of winters, but last night might have been rock bottom. Not only did they lose to St. Bonaventure to slide to 8-16 on the season, their bus driver decided not to stick around, inexplicably taking off and leading state police on something of a merry chase before finally being flagged down.

No explanation as yet for the driver's mad flight, but apparently she was acting erratically from the time she first picked the team up. The rest of the story will no doubt come later.

In the meantime, given St. Louis' woeful hoops prowess, the Blob wonders with what the bus driver might have been charged.

"Leaving the scene of a dumpster fire" comes to mind.

Today's philosophical question

No, not what would happen if Superman fought Batman. As the Blob has noted before, that's already been done. Badly.

The question for today, rather, is this: What constitutes cheating?

"What the Patriots did, like, three times at least," is one acceptable answer.

"What the Indianapolis Colts did, during roughly the same period," is another, at least according to Deion Sanders.

The Hall of Fame defensive back turned NFL Network analyst said that the other day, when one of his colleagues, LaDainian Tomlinson, pointed out on the NFL Network that the Patriots' dynasty might have been besmirched by Spygate and Deflategate. Sanders begged to differ.

"Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins that the Indianapolis Colts had? You want to talk about that, too? Because they were getting everybody's signals," Sanders said. "Come on, you don't walk up to the line and look over here and the man on the sideline giving you the defense that they've stolen the plays of. We all knew. LT knew. Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn't let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy."

Tony Dungy, of course, begs to differ, pointing out that stealing signals goes back to the 1800s in baseball. Which is true.

So does that make it cheating, or just time-honored tradition?

It is, admittedly, a fine line, and only a blue-face-painted Colts fan would claim otherwise. The foundational definition of cheating, after all, is trying to gain the upper hand by surreptitious means. By that standard, stealing a team's signals is different only in degree from what the Patriots did in Sypgate.

Here's the thing though: Degrees matter here.

That's why Spygate was cheating, and stealing signals is not. Contradiction in terms it may be, but  there is an acceptable norm to these things, as Dungy suggested.  Stealing signals lies within that norm, because, yes, baseball teams have been stealing signals since the 1800s, and professional football teams (not to say college teams) have likely been doing it for almost as long.

If you think the Colts were the only NFL team trying to steal signals during the Dungy era , there is some lovely oceanfront property in Nebraska you might want to check out. Ditto if you think stealing signals never happened in, say, the Shula or McCaffrey or Marchibroda  eras.

So why is Spygate different?

Because it did go outside the norm. The Patriots' skullduggery took skullduggery beyond the unspoken parameters for these things. It took it to a place everyone agrees, without saying so, is unacceptable. That's why no one does it -- or if they do, they are properly punished for it, as the Patriots were.

So is stealing signals cheating?

Well ... yes. But in the gray-shaded world of professional sports, there is cheating -- and there is, well, cheating.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trash talk

Phil Jackson has his Zen and his triangle and all those rings Kobe and Shaq and MJ won for him, but these days he has something far less glittering: A mean spirit.

Ever since the dubious architect of the New York Knick(ed)s re-signed Carmelo Anthony, he's been bashing Anthony, even as the Knick(ed)s star has pretty much taken the high road. Now Phil's done it again, weighing in on a Bleacher Report column that takes his side in the escalating and mostly one-sided feud.

The column, which frankly reads as if Jackson himself dictated it, casts doubt on  Carmelo's desire to win, a pretty egregious slur. Phil then tweeted his kudos, comparing Carmelo to former Georgetown star Michael Graham, a troubled soul who played for Jackson during his CBA days, argued with him during a game and was cut.

All of this seems grossly unfair to Anthony, who's only averaging 22.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the calamity of a team Jackson's built around him. He can hardly be blamed for the Knicks' 22-31 record, although Jackson seems mightily to be trying.

And why is that?

The theory is he didn't want to re-sign Anthony to begin with, that he got forced into it by his owner. So because Jackson caved (and come on, he's Phil Jackson, do you really think he couldn't have talked his owner out of re-signing Anthony if he'd really tried?), he's taking it out on Anthony.

And that, frankly, is profoundly unfair. Not to say gutless.

If the Knicks are a Hazmat site right now, after all, much of the blame falls on Jackson. What of substance, after all, has he done in New York? Outside of signing rising star Kristaps Porzingis, his resume is emptier than Betsy DeVos'.  But it's all Carmelo's fault?

Look. If Jackson doesn't want Anthony, he should man up and say so. Passively-aggressively smearing the guy until he finally gets sick of it and requests a trade (Anthony has a no-trade clause in his deal) exhibits a lack of character, and it's beneath a man of Jackson's stature.

If, that is, he's truly deserving of that stature.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When the money dries up

Once upon a time, when the world was young and NASCAR still looked like an eternally flowing money fountain, Danica Patrick was the hottest property this side of a private island in the Caribbean.

IndyCar had made her the face of its sport, a sketchy move that was both crassly commercial and an eventual detriment to everyone concerned. She had, yes, the face, but not the resume. And so resentment of her unduly exalted status quickly grew within IndyCar's ranks.

It didn't help, of course, that she handled both the status and the resentment badly. It also didn't help that, like a handful of other IndyCar stars, she then made the mistake of jumping to NASCAR, lured by all that eternally flowing dough.

As with other IndyCar defectors (Sam Hornish Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti), she hasn't found anywhere close to even the limited success she enjoyed in IndyCar.  Worse, the eternal money fountain didn't turn out to be eternal after all.

Oh, NASCAR is still the king of American motorsports, and likely will be for a very long time. But as the sport descends from its unsustainable peak, the sponsorship deals are drying up, both for the drivers and the product itself. It says something, after all, when your title sponsor used to be a communications giant and is now an energy drink (Monster). And mostly what it says is not good.

As for Danica, the marketing magic is gone. She's just another back marker now, scrambling for dollars the way all the back markers do. And so now comes news, via George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel,  that she's short $15.2 million to go racing this year -- and Daytona is less than three weeks away.

Her primary sponsor, Nature's Bakery, abruptly bailed on its deal with Patrick, an act that will land it in court as Patrick's team, Stewart-Haas Racing, sues for breach of contract. So at least she has that going for her. She also still has three primary sponsors to pick up the tab for 10 races: Aspen Dental (four races), TaxAct (three races) and Code 3 (three races).

The bad news here is that it's Aspen Dental, TaxAct and Code 3, entities that are not exactly on the tip of America's tongue. Neither is Nature's Bakery, a tiny company of similar obscurity.

This is a far more than a stone's throw from the sponsors Patrick used to attract. And it's the starkest evidence that her star has truly dimmed.

It's not just that her primary sponsor has ditched her, you see. It's that her primary sponsor was Nature's Bakery.

That Baylor brand

Maybe they just need to lay off football for awhile, down there in Waco. No matter what the hometown school does, it seems, it can't get out from under the dark cloud of its football program.

First, Baylor football turned into a de facto vacation spa for sexual predators, with lawsuits alleging the university itself took, shall we say, a cavalier attitude toward the goings-on. Art Briles' program, after all, had become a national power. And we all know how much they love national football powers in Texas.

The whole thing eventually blew up in their faces, as these sorts of things tend to do. Briles was cast into outer darkness, and -- even as the lawsuits proceed apace -- Baylor has vowed to clean up its football act. And that's what it brought in Matt Rhule from Temple to do.

Except ...

Well, except that one of the guys Rhule brought with him -- a 33-year-old assistant strength coach named Brandon Washington -- just got nicked in a Waco prostitution sting.

McLennan County (Texas) deputies arrested Washington in a Waco-area hotel on a prostitution solicitation charge, a Class B misdemeanor. Baylor immediately fired him, but once again it's left looking like a place where its football program can't keep its collective pants zipped.

Not a good look for a Baptist school.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wait ... what?

In some other universe today, one that does not include Tom Brady, the Atlanta Falcons are celebrating. Most of America is celebrating. People are all like, "Well, that showed those cheaters," and "Suck it, Brady" -- the meme that will never die, at least outside New England.

Except ...

Except everyone woke up today in this universe. And, yes, that still happened.

"That," of course, being the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and also the greatest choke. "That" being Brady -- indisputably the Greatest Of All Times now, no matter what you think of him -- leading his beleaguered New England Patriots to 25 points in 17 minutes, then taking them down the field in overtime to win Supe LI, 34-28.

(Which brings us to the second miracle of this day, the Blob's eerily accurate prediction. The final was Patriots 34, Falcons 28; the Blob's call was Patriots 34, Falcons 27. Pigs will now fly, and the moon will turn the color of blood)

In any case, it was a situation where you can throw around the word "epic," and no one will roll his or her eyes. It was epic, on both ends. In future years, how Brady brought his team back from the brink of death -- down 28-3 with the third quarter nearly gone -- will be viewed with nearly as much wonder as how the Falcons lost a game that looked so profoundly unlose-able for so long.

A few observations from Epicville:

* If Brady and Matt Ryan filled the air with footballs -- Brady chucked it a record 62 times for a record 466 yards -- this game turned on the fulcrum that decides almost every Super Bowl: Defense. Nearly lost in all the Brady GOAT chatter is the fact the Patriots defense sacked Ryan five times and pretty much shut down the Falcons' league-leading offense after the 8:48 mark of the second quarter. The Falcons' offense scored just once after that, and was shut out for the final 23:31 of regulation and the overtime. For the game, they managed just 17 first downs and had the football for just 23:27.

Which led directly to ...

*  ... the Patriots comeback. For most of three quarters, Brady vs. the Falcons defense looked like what it was, a 39-year-old quarterback against faster, younger, more eager men. Windows closed absurdly quickly for the 39-year-old, and he was continually pressured, hit, sacked and otherwise abused by the hungry kids in the Falcons down seven.

But here's the thing: Even if the Patriots weren't scoring, Brady was still moving the chains. The Patriots piled up a ridiculous 37 first downs before they were done, and hogged the football an equally ridiculous 40 minutes plus. Eventually, that stole even the Falcons' young legs. That's why that 25-point Falcons lead vanished, and that's why the Patriots scored 19 points in the fourth quarter.

* Speaking of young, the Falcons' Super Bowl inexperience finally reared its head as things began to fray. On a couple of occasions, Ryan took sacks when he absolutely could not take sacks, driving the Falcons out of field goal range when a field goal was all they needed to finally make the thing a bridge too far for even Brady. An egregious, crucial holding penalty helped that process along, too. As did a couple of defensive holding penalties as the tiring Falcons defensive backs tried to do with their hands what their legs could no longer do.

The Patriots, in short, were much the cooler team down the stretch. As you might have figured.

* Best part of the night: The catches made by Julio Jones and Julian Edelman. Never been two more oh-my-God, grab-your-head catches in the same Super Bowl.

 * Worst part of the night: Having to listen to Robert Kraft play the persecuted victim as he held the Lombardi Trophy aloft, saying it was the sweetest of the Patriots' Super Bowl wins because of all they've gone through the last two years. Sorry, Bob, but that kite won't fly. Whatever happened to you, you brought it on yourselves. Try not cheating next time.

* Oh, yes: And Lady Gaga killed it in the halftime show. End of discussion.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

And now ... Da Prediction

Or in other words, "The Moral Dilemma That Is Super Bowl LI."

It's one of those left brain/right brain kind of deals, in which the inner dialogue becomes as contentious and counterproductive as a presidential phone call to the Australian prime minister. On the one hand, there's the heart, which says go with the Falcons because they're fun and different and young and one of the most decent human beings on the planet, Jimmy Carter, is a fan. On the other hand ...

Well, on the other hand, there's the brain, which says it's the $#@%&* Patriots because they're the $#@%* Patriots. And even though the Falcons are fun and different, they are also, yes, young, and that is a severe disadvantage when it's the $#@%* Patriots on the other side of the field.

Look. The Falcons are young. They are also faster, they seem to have more pure athletic talent in the right places, and Matt Ryan is having the best season of his career. And sometimes that recipe winds up with the guy having the best season of his career raising the Lombardi Trophy.

The dynastic Steelers, after all, were young and fast and outrageously talented, too, when they made their rookie debut in the Super Bowl. Across from them were the veteran Vikings. The Steelers won that day, 16-6.

Here's the thing though: The Vikings of 1975 were not the Patriots of 2016.

The Patriots of 2016 are the supreme organization in the NFL, and maybe in all of American sports. They have Grumpy McGrumpleskins, aka, Bill Belichick, perhaps the best coach of all time. They have the best scoring defense in the league, a not inconsiderable thing in a game that historically has belonged to the team with the best defense. And they have Tom Brady, very likely the greatest Super Bowl quarterback of all time, playing in his seventh Super Bowl against an Atlanta defense that, while athletic and fast, features seven rookies or second-year players.

It's a defense that's gotten better as the year's gone on, but it's also a defense whose weaknesses happen to dovetail with Brady's strengths. They've been effective so far in the playoffs by blitzing more than they did in the regular season, but Brady eats blitzes alive. No QB in the league has better numbers against the blitz than No. 12.

Plus, he really, really, really wants this one, because he wants to be on that podium when Roger Goodell is forced to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots. Brady -- and his team, and their following -- have a persecution complex a mile wide where Goodell is concerned. They feel they've been done a great wrong, a laughable notion considering how much shady and out-and-out illegal acts they've all but gotten away with over the years.

Because of that, there is nothing I would like to do more than pick against the Patriots. But I can't. I can't pick against Shady Brady, not when he's this motivated and not when he's facing such a raw defense.

 Brady plus Belichick vs. rookie defense plus rookie head coach (Dan Quinn) is an equation that comes out the same way every time, in my book.

And so: Patriots 34, Falcons 27.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Your Super Bowl moment for today

Sorry, but it's not the eagerly unanticipated Blob prediction. That comes tomorrow, when the Blob goes against convention and picks a team that's not even playing, on account of the fact a team that's not even playing will have more access to snacks and beer.

No, it's time for the barely acknowledged Blob Prop Bets, which are unlike regular prop bets in that they don't include mundane stuff like how long it will take Luke Bryan to sing the national anthem, and will he remember all the words.

(I'm guessing somewhere well north of two minutes, and yes)

Anyway ... without further ado, here are the Blob Prop Bets:

1. Will Lady Gaga wear the Meat Dress in the halftime show?

(Corollary bet: And will it be grilled, fried or broiled?)

2. Will Bill Belichick smile if the Patriots win?

(Corollary bet: And how malevolent will Tom Brady's smile be when he accepts the Lombardi Trophy from Roger Goodell?)

3.  If it's a blowout and the Patriots are winning, how long before all of America outside of New England bails in favor of "Victoria" on PBS?

(Over/under: 12.5 seconds)

4. How long before someone in the Blob household (i.e., the Blob's wife, who's not into football) asks "Who's Atlanta's quarterback again?"

(Over/under: One minute)

5. How long before someone else in the Blob household (i.e., me) says "OK, time for a brownie?"

(No over/under on this one. You're assuming I haven't said that already)

6. What will be heard first in households watching the Super Bowl:: "Dammit, Atlanta!", "These commercials aren't very good this year," or "God, I hate the Patriots."

(The best odds in Vegas right now are on "OK, time for a brownie.")

7. In how many households watching the Super Bowl will the following be heard vis-a-vis Lady Gaga's halftime show: "Well, that was weird"?

(Over'under: 1.2 million)

8. In how many households, at the same time, will the following be heard: "Coldplay was better last year"?

(Over/under: Five)

9. How long before someone in the Blob household says "I really miss the Bud Bowl"?

(No over/under. I just said it. And I mean it)

And last but not least ...

10. If the Falcons win, who will crack open another beer, raise it toward the TV screen and say "(Bleep) you, Brady!"?

(Vegas says "Pretty much everyone who doesn't live in New England")

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tiger's back ...

... is bothering him again.

The word out of Dubai is Woods pulled out of the Dubai Desert Classic after suffering back spasms Thursday evening, and here we go, here we go. It took no particular genius, or even particular smarts, to predict that sooner or later the back would start acting up again. Turns out "sooner" was the way to go in the office pool.

His comeback has barely begun, and the back is an issue again. Well, duh. When you're 41 years old and you're a professional golfer with back issues on your resume, these things will happen. Just ask Freddy Couples, whose own career was short-circuited by back problems.

Of course, Woods' agent, says the problem is unrelated to the nerve issues that precipitated Woods' three recent back surgeries. But if it's the back, pretty much everything is related. Which is why we should expect more of this rather than less going forward.

In the meantime, Woods' comeback has so far produced a missed cut at Torrey Pines and an opening 77, with five bogeys and zero birdies, in Dubai. Expect more of this going forward, too -- unless, or until, Woods finally decides enough is enough and hangs it up.

He is, after all, already the greatest player of his era, if not ever. It's unlikely anything he does now is going to add to that. So why continue to play regularly in what seems certain to be a steadily diminishing capacity?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

That name. That lovely name.

I am sorry, Edgar Allan Poe. You no longer have the most fabulous name I ever heard in college football.

And I remember Prince McJunkins.

No, the Army wide receiver must now cede the stage, because here comes the name that was all over the interwhatsis yesterday: Kobe Buffalomeat.

He's a 285-pound offensive lineman from Kansas who signed with Illinois State yesterday, and the best line of the day came from Buffalomeat himself.

His name? Why, he was named for Kobe Bryant, of course.

Which of course ignores the part of his name that is sheer awesomeness, and especially sheer American awesomeness.  Native Americans, after all, are the only real Americans. Everyone else is just a poser from somewhere else.

(Something the Resident of the United States might have considered before issuing his sweeping not-in-response-to-anything-in-particular travel ban targeting Muslims. But that would require some perspective, and the Resident has none. Everything's a forest fire to him. Another Blob for another day. perhaps)

Anyway ... back to Buffalomeat.

He became such a hit yesterday that a producer from the Jimmy Kimmel show called, inquiring about an interview. Meanwhile, the most fervent hope of every American is that he blows up at Illinois State and winds up in the NFL, where the endorsement possibilities boggle the mind.

Some of them might not even be completely tasteless -- although Madison Avenue doesn't exactly have a sterling track record in that regard.

In any case,  America will be watching Buffalomeat. And if he does blow up, those of us who live in Indiana will be hoping that please-please-please the Colts draft and sign him.

I mean, Andrew Luck needs all the protection up front he can get. And Buffalomeat would certainly be an upgrade from what he's working with now on the OL.

Which would be Dead Meat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pot meets kettle

I get LeBron James' frustration. When a guy's been banging on you periodically for most of your career, sometimes you just get fed up.

And so there was TNT analyst Charles Barkley the other day, calling LeBron "whiny" for demanding more from an owner who's given him pretty much everything, saying his insistence on another piece to the Cavaliers' puzzle is a sign that LeBron just "didn't want to compete." The first might have had some validity; the second was patently absurd, given what happened last June.

In any case, LeBron had heard enough.

"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," James told ESPN a few nights later. "I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, 'I'm not a role model.' I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

"All I've done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that."

The Blob's take: Pretty good comeback. Actually, a great comeback. 

A lot of other people's take: He shouldn't have gotten personal, because Barkley didn't.

Um ... excuse me?

Listen, when you call someone of LeBron's stature "whiny" and say he doesn't want to compete, that sounds pretty personal to me. If it isn't, the standards for what is personal have changed somewhere along the line without my knowledge.

The bare-wood truth is, telling a professional athlete  he doesn't want to compete is as deeply personal an insult as you can level. And it's interesting Barkley would go there, being a guy who apparently didn't want to compete himself back in his playing days, when he did a lot of the same sort of whining about the 76ers before heading off to Phoenix, a team he knew had all the pieces in place to compete for an NBA title.

Not that, you know, the Round Mound of Selective Memory ever chased rings like these guys do today.

But then, that's Chuckles. Like a lot of old-school Joes, he's a big do-as-I-say, not-as-I-did guy. Or perhaps more accurately, "Do as I remember myself doing, even if it's not what I did."

Not to get personal or anything.


Your Super Bowl moment for today

In which we harken back to those days of yesteryear, 2004 to be precise, when the most famous halftime nothingburger of all halftime nothingburgers either shocked America's sensibilities or ... you know, didn't.

I am speaking, of course, of the fabled halftime Wardrobe Malfunction that bared Janet Jackson's breast for a nanosecond the last time the Super Bowl was played in Houston.

And when I say "nanosecond," I mean that literally.

It was, in fact, such a nanosecond I didn't see it, my eyesight being notoriously bad anyway. All I saw was Jackson grab the right side of her chest as Justin Timberlake clawed at her, um, covering. If there was a bare breast in there, I didn't see it.

Neither did most of America, I'm willing to bet.

Nonetheless, there was outrage. And the NFL dialed back the halftime show accordingly. The next year, the halftime show featured Paul McCartney, a safely G-rated (for "geriatric") act.

At any rate, the best take I ever heard on the Wardrobe Malfunction came from comedian Lewis Black, who said people who said they saw Jackson's breast were all lying, because the only way anyone could have seen anything was if they had their noses pressed to the TV screen at the aforementioned nanosecond. Otherwise, because it happened so quickly, it's likely more people heard about it after the fact, saw the screen grab, and then imagined they saw it live.

The mind, after all, is a funny thing. And mightily susceptible to suggestion.

Or so goes the Blob's theory.