We are committed to continuing Wednesday's trend of addressing commentors with an old-school, street gangster nickname. (Side gangster note: The end of Eric Clapton's Layla is on the Rushmore of popular song-movie connections, meaning when we hear the song we instantly think of the movie. Off the top of our heads, we offer Layla-Good Fellas, Lunatic Fringe-Vision Quest, Tiny Dancer-Almost Famous and Eye of the Tiger-Rocky III. Thoughts?)
Two reminders before we get the party started: One, we have a couple of spots open for Friday's mailbag; two, we're planning on Tweeting (@jgreesontfp) throughout the Tennessee-Mississippi State basketball game today. Check it out if you can.
From the Bubble bubble (toil and trouble) inside the "Talks too much" studios, remember the boulevard is not that bad.
Win or go home... for the NIT
We have said since early February, when the University of Tennessee basketball team was 11-10 and staring at a quiet spring, that for the Vols to get into the Dance, it needed to go 8-1 through the rest of the regular season and win two tournament games.
The first tournament game for the Vols (19-11) is today against Mississippi State at 3:30 p.m.
And know this Johnny Vols Fans: A loss today pops the bubble. Period. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
A win today the rest of the afternoon and the weekend about intrigue and scoreboard watching.
To paraphrase Col. Nathan Jessup, "We want the Vols on that bubble-wall, we NEED the Vols on that bubble-wall."
The Vols have a slew o' reasons to be motivated as our UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown tells us here. And Boise State's loss early this morning greatly improved the Vols' chance to dance.
Motivated or not. Pretty or not. This is a win-or-make-plans-to-see-an-MTSU-rematch-in-round-1-of-the-NIT game today.
We'll be back later today — and we're planning on Sawwed-Off Stuck to chime in too — with a list of the games of interest for the bubble-watchers.
Heat on fire
Miami has won 20 straight games. That's big-time.
Want to know when a streak becomes something: When you get up checking to see if the team won or the player got a hit or scored a point to extend the streak. We're there with this Heat bunch. Good times.
This group is playing at an elite level of efficiency and professionalism. And with a cutthroat determination that makes it seem like there are two questions — and two questions only — for these NBA playoffs: Who will face the Heat in the finals and how many games will it last?
Yes, the Pacers and even the Bulls (if Derrick Rose returns) could mount a challenge in the Eastern Conference, but right now the Heat are on a different plane.
And, for the few of us that are at least mildly interested in the NBA, here's a scarier thought about how tough LeBron and Heatles could be? What happens when LeBron starts getting calls the way Jordan did?
LeBron is an 18-wheeler that handles; Jordan was a 7-series BMW that could carry a load. James drives and absorbs punishment; Jordan would drive and if someone even looked hard at him it was two shots.
If there starts to become a James rule, the Heatles could be unstoppable.
Wes Welker's middle finger free agency
Bill Belichick does things his way. And his way has proved supremely successful in New England (finding the fifth golden ticket that is Tom Brady certainly helped).
Belichick's way did not include giving slot receiver Wes Welker a big contract. Whatever the reasons, the sides seemed split from the start, and the disconnect was never resolved despite Welker's place in the offense and in Brady's arsenal as an over-the-middle staple.
Hey, in big-boy sports, difficult decisions must be made. And in the NFL, teams frequently are forced to say good-bye to successful players. Often teams are forced to do it one season early because doing it one season late can wreck your salary cap.
So when Belichick and the Patriots opted not to sign Welker, Welker took his talents to the Rockies, signing a two-year, $12-million deal with the Denver Broncos. Yep, after catching a ton of passes from Brady, now Welker will line-up and light-it-up in the slot for none other than the chief Brady-and-Belichick nemesis, Peyton Manning.
Not to be outdone, the Patriots have found who they figure will be Welker's replacement, reportedly agreeing to a deal with Danny Amendola.
And if you think either Welker or the Patriots followed Michael Corleone's motto "this is business not personal, Sonny," well consider the following:
• Welker reportedly had another offer that included more money but decided to sign with Manning and the Broncos, who will visit New England in 2013 and are a legit Super Bowl contender.
• Welker is 5-foot-9 and will be 32 in May. Amendola is 5-11 and will be 28 in November. Each went to Texas Tech. Welker's career numbers are through the roof better than Amendola's, but that's a skewed comparison.
• Just to make sure everyone has hard feelings, the Patriots, who offered Welker a two-year, $10 million deal, gave Amendola a five-year, $31-million contract. And the guaranteed money? Yep, it's the exact $10 million offered to Welker. No, Wes it's not us, it's you.
Here are the two things we believe about the movement: One, the Patriots-Broncos game will be on Sunday Night Football and already checks in as must-see TV; two, a motivated Welker and a motivated Amendola will be fantasy football superstars.
This and that
— More free agent fuss: Baltimore released Bernard Pollard, their leading tackler and the guy that made THE HIT on Stevan Ridley that caused a game-changing fumble against New England in the AFC title game. Another big contributor gone from a Ravens frnachise that is now completely built around Joei Flacco and his contract. (Yes, Joei, because there is no 'I' in team but there is in Joei Flacco.)
— Draft results: If Mel Kiper Jr. were to grade the results form last night's T-Ball draft that included the 5-at-10, we're pretty sure we'd fare pretty well. First, we drafted our team names and minor league uniforms and we landed the Durham Bulls. (Whatcha need is a curveball? Huh?... You've been in the majors?) Plus, with limited info on the draft pool, we're sure Kiper would have noticed our value-based trend of drafting kids that know our son and vice versa. We call that system familiarity, and that's our story and we're sticking to it.
— As the Big East tournament is in high gear, news that the Catholic 7 — has nothing to do with the Pope mind you — will add teams in the next 10 days seems somewhat Big sacril-East, huh?
— Go ahead and get on the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon now. They are impossible to beat at home and have added Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril, the fleet-footed former Detroit defensive end who has 39.5 sacks since 2008. Yep, the Seahawks have addressed their two biggest needs with speed and playmakers. Well-played indeed.
Feel free to drop some science on any of the above topics.
If you need a talking point, here's a starter:
Congrats to Patty Knuckles and the rest of the Catholics around the globe for picking a new leader. He picked Frances as his papal name, and we're OK with that.
That said, what do you think was the first few Pope names marked off his list? Pope Barkevious I? Pope Da'Rick? The Pope you know better as Joe the Policeman from the 'What's Going Down' episode of "That's My Mama"? Rope-a-Pope? Bubba?
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 ...