Every Monday through Friday for the two years and seven weeks we've been doing this family-oriented, interweb-based sports column — that's 555 consecutive work days gang — we have spilled a lot of bandwidth. We sometimes write multiple paragraphs when a single sentence could have sufficed. So it goes.
This morning we don't have words for the feelings of the weekend. There is real evil out there and we are too frequently reminded of it and forced to deal with the aftermath.
There's also real beauty — like the glow in a 5-year-old's face at his morning chocolate milk or the smile and head tilt of a 2-year-old wearing her favorite dress and saying, "I'm soooo cute," because she's heard it a thousand times over from her father.
There's no way to know the tragedy that fell on Newtown this weekend. There is only sympathy and prayer.
And the futile hope that this will be the last time we see evil's all-too-familiar fingerprints.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's make the magic happen...
The say-something nice Monday
OK, we're going to try something new. We're only going to say something nice about our topics today. Maybe this will be a tradition on Mondays. Maybe not.
But with the weight of the weekend still fresh and our mind wandering from the real to the surreal, let's give this a shot.
Fact: Georgia Southern should be in the FCS title game, but some self-imposed miscues proved supremely costly.
Be Nice: Condolences to Spy, who is a big-time Johnny Eagles Fan from way back, and Astropig. And here's saying that if Georgia Southern was in the title game actually would make us miss the FCS championship being at Finley.
Fact: Arizona scores two TDs in the final two minutes to beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl 49-48.
Be nice: Those two teams were, "sooooo cute," when they tried to tackle. It was sweet.
Fact: The Fab 4 Bowl picks started 2-1 despite Arizona's new no-tackle approach to tackle football.
Be nice: At least that first game wasn't on blue turf. (Sorry, the only nice thing we can think of about watching a game on the blue turf is that, well... We'll get back to you.)
Fact: The UTC Mocs basketball team lost 63-53 to Mercer.
Be nice: (Wow, this is harder than we thought.) OK, how's this: These Mocs sure do play hard, and they are in the top 60 nationally in rebounding. That's nice, right?
We'll explore the teams with playoff hopes and Super Bowl dreams on Tuesday in our regular NFL Power Poll, but we'd be remiss not to mention the complete performance delivered by the Atlanta Falcons in a 34-0 win over the New York Giants.
It was a statement game delivered with an exclamation point.
The Giants came to the Dome carrying the swagger of being the Super Bowl champ and the determination of knowing that a win goes a long way to secure their ticket to the postseason ball. The Falcons were covered in questions about their ability to deliver against the elite teams in the league and in the elite moments of the season.
The Falcons stood tall and answered loudly, forcing turnovers and enforcing their will. It was a true answer that has to give even the most pessimistic Johnny Falcons Fan reason to believe this postseason will be different.
Plus, the domination means all Atlanta needs is one win in its final two games to secure Dome-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Big moments come from big opportunities.
As for the Giants and our be nice pledge, well, Eli Manning, who spoke at last year's Best of Preps banquet, is a world-class dude, as is Victor Cruz — as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer beautifully tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/17/connecticut-tragedy-hits-giants-cruz/ — and the Giants' uniforms are wicked underrated.
Calhoun and Ridgeland each had its magical state football run stopped in the Georgia state championships in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. Kudos to our prep duo of Lindsey Young and Stephen Hargis for the work from the heart of the big city.
While the Yellow Jackets and the Panthers came up short in the final game, there were no shortage of highlights from these two teams. In fact, here's a short list of some of the best moments from the high school football season, all of which will be covered in our "Be Nice" pledge:
— The growth of Darrell Bridges, the Ridgeland bell cow who truly put the POW in power back, the greatness of Vonn Bell and the power of belief that galvanized these Panthers.
— The two years of high-flying, yard-gobbling passing stats from Calhoun's Taylor Lamb. Sweet buckets of TD passes, pass the abacus and ask yourself how many programs are in such a position of expected excellence as Calhoun? Think of it this way: The Yellow Jackets lost 10 defensive starters and an All-American kicker from last year's team, and it's somewhat surprising they didn't win the state title this year. Kudos coach Hal Lamb on building a monster in the county seat of Gordon County.
— Watching the maturation of a several young teams, including Signal and McCallie, that started amid question marks and improved throughout.
— Wondering what may have happened for the East Hamilton Hurricanes if an untimely injury to their clear leader had not developed. There are moments that you know you'll never forget, and as a high school athlete, your last game is almost always going to be on that list — good or bad. The shame for the Hurricanes and those involved with this special group is they are left with the most hollow and unending retrospective question in sports: What if? But know these two things: 1) These Hurricanes were great, played the game the right way and while the ending felt flat, the journey was anything but; 2) They aren't going anywhere. There are a slew of household names waiting to debut next fall roaming the East Hamilton halls. Trust us.
— Got to see two of the best games — Hixson rallying to be Red Bank and Baylor edging McCallie — that we've seen in a long time.
This and that — nicely
— Thanks, Sunday night football for delivering a thrilling ending in a game that had the first-half appeal of a Tupperware party. San Francisco's 41-34 win over the Patriots started as a 31-3 49ers' blowout, became a 31-31 chance for Super springboard/implosion and ended with Bill Belichick going for it on fourth-and-1 at his 12 with two-plus minutes left and the 49ers pretty happy about their quarterback situation. Yep, there's plenty of nice things to say about Colin Kaepernick this morning after his four TD passes, including one to the artist formerly known as Randy Moss.
— Reports have Jimbo Fisher eyeing Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt to be FSU's next defensive coordinator. Wow, this is going to test our be nice policy. OK, we've learned that hiring position coaches from Nick Saban's defense can be a dicey proposition (something that the entire Sal Sunseri — SAAALLLLL!!! — episode taught us). Well, in the be nice category, well, Jeremy has to be better than Sal. There you go. (Side note: We're hearing whispers that Sal may join Pruitt on FSU's staff. Wow, Sal must interview like Nixon.
— The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly putting together a deal for Mets ace R.A. Dickey, which would mean the Jays' rotation would include imports Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle. Wow, the AL East just became the SEC West. Buckle up.
— Wow, that Pete Carroll is taking no prisoners. After his Seahawks pounded Arizona 58-bagel last week, Carroll called a fake punt up 30 points in Sunday's 50-17 win over Buffalo. Wow. Well, the nicest thing we can say about that is what goes around comes around.
— We got more than 50 bowl entries, which is exciting. We'll update the roster today after 2, so check back then and make sure you're in. For those that missed the deadline, since we've only had one game, you can still get in at -1 and have a legit chance to win stuff.
It's Monday so speak your peace.
If you need a talking point, how about this:
Last week we discussed your favorite Christmas movie. This week, what's the best Christmas song?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...