We're back. Not a Jack Nicholson back in "The Shining" or even a Michael Corleone back in "Godfather III" but more of a Cousin Eddie back in Christmas Vacation. "That there is what you call an RV... Now don't go falling in love with it Clark, we're taking it with us when we leave next month."
And among the magics of Disney — seriously, the place is a deluxe dichotomy of adjectives and adverbs — is that it is its own world and you have a hard time keeping up with the real world around you. It's a lot like Vegas in a lot of ways. It's crazy and perfect and it's its own planet and a place that doesn't seem real. We didn't even see the meteor video until Sunday — Wow, by the way — and did not see a single moment from the Vols historic beatdown of Kentucky (which we're guessing is only slightly less than what chas9 was able to watch considering the way his Cats played).
With that said, and with the magic and memories of Disney in the rearview, let's get to a real 5-at-10 with five sports-related things we're thinking about at 10 a.m. (five things at 10 a.m., 5-at-10, catchy, huh?).
From the home offices of the "Talks too much" studios, let's drop some logic.
Danica Patrick, left, displays the flag with Tony Stewart after winning the pole Sunday during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick became the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Patrick gets us talking about NASCAR
The headline on today's TFP sports section is "Leading Lady." We almost went with "Lady's First" and we did not give any serious thought to "Pole Dancer."
But the fact that with college hoops hitting the final month, the NFL draft combine — we love the draft, you know this — this week, pitchers and catchers trickling into spring training and we are picking NASCAR and Danica Patrick as the lead item of the first non-top-five list 5-at-10 in nine days speaks volumes.
Here's what we know: Danica will start up front for next Sunday's Daytona 500. She obviously has the equipment to contend, setting the pace in qualifying Sunday. She has enough experience to compete. Does she have the lugnuts to make a win happen? Hard to know, but she'll be the story of the week, and it has nothing to do with her pitrow romance with Ricky Whoshishelmet, which is good. (Side question: When they make the Danica movie, and if she wins this week, it will be greenlighted before the end of February, Natalie Portman needs to play the lead; well unless they go straight to a post-midnight spot on Cinemax, then Lindsey Lohan can use it as a comeback vehicle. Either way Dale Jr. will play himself — he's been acting like a driver for years now — and George Michael is a dead-ringer for Jimmie Johnson.)
Here's something else we know: NASCAR needs this press and pub. The sport had started to stall and the discussion today is about the possibilities of this weekend rather than the problems of the sport. And know this — the NASCAR powers that be (i.e. the France family) can massage the rules as they see fit. NASCAR does not have a commissioner; it has an owner. Here's saying NASCAR's all-knowing eye will be keenly focused on those racing around Ms. Patrick to make sure she is treated with the respect a "Leading Lady" deserves.
We are less than a month from selection Sunday, and we really do not know all that much about this year's list of college basketball contenders.
In fact, what we do not know far exceeds what we do.
We do not know if this will be the first NCAA tournament since 1974 without UNC and Kentucky. It could very well happen. Since Nerlens Noel tore his ACL, Kentucky has been humbled and its resume does not look good. The committee does not look fondly on teams that lose superstars to injury. Not good times in The Commonwealth.
We do not know the future of this UT basketball team, but it seems a tough picture to see them in the NCAA tournament barring a supreme sprint to the finish that can include no more than two more losses. Let's say UT wins five of its final six games to finish the regular season at 19-11 overall and 11-7 in a less-than-impressive SEC. If UT goes at least 2-1 in the SEC tournament, that's 21-12 and could put UT in the bubble conversation. A win against Florida a week from tomorrow would be huge.
We do not know any sure-fire No. 1 seeds beyond Indiana, and for that reason, this could be the year a 16 beats a 1. (It almost assuredly won't happen, but what happens if an over-achieving champ of a one-bid league meets a pressure-striken, cold-shooting Miami team on the neutral floor with the crowd rallying for the 16?)
The two guys on the CBS halftime show on Sunday said some guy named Marcus Smart should be in the running for NCAA player of the year. No, the other Marcus Smart, no relation to Maxwell Smartt or Kirby Smart.
We have a lot to discuss this week, and we'll start our NFL combine preview stuff on Tuesday. We love the draft, you know this. And before we get to the This and That and the day's questions, we had two rhetorical questions that generated a lot of inner thought during the nine-plus-hour drive back from Orlando as the family caught some Z's.
First, if you are Jadeveon Clowney and you watched Nerlens Noel shred his knee, do you not wonder about this coming football season. Should Clowney consider sitting out, since every draft expert has said plainly that he would be the No. 1 overall pick if he entered this draft, which he can't enter because he's a sophomore?
Second, which storyline is more irksome: Kobe Bryant's happiness with Dwight Howard with an under-achieving Lakers team or last fall's never-ending report on Tim Tebow's role with the under-achieving New York Jets?
It's amazing the things that pop through your head when the only sounds are the thump-thump of the interstate.
As for the draft entrance, well, there's no simple answer and there is no uniform answer. Baseball's draft rules seem to be the most equitable since all high school players are eligible to be drafted, any player that goes to a two-year school out of high school can be drafted after any season, and players that go to four-year schools are eligible three years after their high school graduation. A big reason baseball can offer so many tiers is it has its own farm system; basketball and football do not have minor league systems to groom and grow future stars other than college sports, which has a myriad of goals and aims.
Well, here's saying Mr. Noel will still be a lottery pick — and maybe No. 1 overall — despite tearing his ACL. This is a weak draft class and Noel is a defensive difference-maker. That said, if Clowney — God forbid — hurts a hip or worse and it drastically affects his skills, here's saying his suit against the NFL will be large and newsworthy. Think if the music industry had some rule that Justin Timberlake could not make a professional album until he was 20. Or the kids from Kriss Kross — "Mac Daddy make you wanna jump, jump." Please.
The NFL better hope Clowney doesn't get hurt.
This and that
— There was some trouble last week on Alabama's campus and it was instigated by four Tide football players. Every team at every level has kids that find trouble. That's how it is. We believe the four — including former multi-star recruits Eddie Williams and Brent Calloway — will never see the field again for Alabama, and we are somewhat surprised that has not already happened for each of the four considering three were arrested on aggravated assault charges and this is the second run-in with the law for Calloway. For a guy like Nick Saban, who we have called perfection's guardian on more than one occasion, we thought the action would be more quick and more decisive than a press release.
— There are a few things we enjoy about watching golf. For the most part, the announcing is better across the board than any other sport. Not sure why that is or that we ever have discussed that before, but we believe that to be true. We like to watch the best in the game compete for majors and how they handle the pressure. We also like to watch guys have life-changing moments, like John Merrick did when he won at Riveria on Sunday on the second playoff hole. Good times. (FE to the C, Merrick pocketed $1.188 million with the victory.)
— Watching bits and pieces of the NBA All-Star game last night, we were constantly reminded that the Hawks taking Marvin Williams No. 2 overall ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 draft is right there with Bowie over Jordan and Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as the worst NBA draft picks ever. Ever. (That said, the Raiders picking JaMarcus Russell is the single worst pick ever. EVER.)
We're happy to play quick toss today. Ask us something, and we'll get to it and vice versa. Or tell us something we missed in our isolated week of Disney-tastic-ness.
Here's three to start:
Is there a single sports-related event that has fallen more than the slam dunk contest? It used to be a sure-fire, must-see event that had Jordan and Dominique and Vince Carter and everyone else. Now some rookie from Toronto wins and we're not sure if he's even in the league. Hey, at least home-court advantage in the NBA Finals was not on the line.
Is there less defense played in the Pro Bowl or the NBA All-Star game?
Where does Danica finish? This screams mini-contest, right? We're leaning that way... thoughts?
Discuss, and as our 5-year-old asked Sunday night after we read stories, "Can we go back to Disney... next week?"
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 ...