We're back. We've de-sanded, re-set our mini-golf handicap and amazingly have very little color to show for our trip to the Gulf, but it was a world of fun.
Thanks to those of you who played along in the mini-series that was the vacation 5-at-10 top-five lists. Good times.
We've been out of pocket for the better part of the last week, but let's recap some of the things that caught our eye.
From the familiar confines of the "Talks too much" studios, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
Winning the offseason
As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer points out here, UTC AD David Blackburn has enjoyed high times and high energy in his first month on the gig.
Late last week, our UT football ace Downtown Patrick Brown was in town with the Big Orange Caravan as Butch and Co. hit the Scenic City. (Side note: There is a real chance to mis-type Butch in a less than flattering way, especially for those of us who do an early morning, family-oriented, sports-column that is only self-edited before hitting the interwebs. Look at your keyboard and see what letter near the 'U' could make 'Butch' quite different. And no, we do not need to guess or to review the options. We're not sayin', we're just sayin', you know?)
This got us thinking, how important is winning the offseason. More times than not, it's of marginal import at best, and never compares to the actual production on the field or in the standings.
That said, for Blackburn and for Butch, big offseasons are paramount.
For Blackburn, generating the tidal wave of feel good that has come with two fully endorsed hires helps craft the perception of the first-time AD. And that perception is a large part of the reality when it comes to the new script Blackburn is writing. It also is of huge value when trying to raise funds, which we all agree is job No. 1 for Blackburn and his staff. Yes, hiring a Hall of Famer in Jim Foster and what appears to the be a hot, rising star in Will Wade, is great, but making it rain is atop Blackburn's daily to-do list every day other than family birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.
For Butch Jones, the offseason is about making Johnny Vols Fans believe. And, more importantly, make potential future Johnny Vols Players interested. Jones has done both, making splash after splash on the dinner circuit and making headlines on the recruiting trail.
If we were to grade the offseason, we'd give each an 'A' and do it readily and justifiably.
Of course, when the seasons, start, those mean the same thing as Spy's Physics grade at Georgia Tech.
For the second time in a little more than four months, a football coach has compared Nick Saban to the devil. This happened last week, and we missed it until we started catching up on our missed readings.
Guys, couple of things here:
First, when you are an SEC football coach, when you step to the microphone, you're being recorded. Yes, we complain about guys being vanilla and not giving good quotes and what have you. You know why, because when they say anything controversial — especially when it's something as stupid and offensive as former Alabama assistant Tim Davis calling Saban "the devil himself" — it becomes the soundbite of the moment and the story of the day.
Secondly, you know who loves that comparison? The devil, because after Vandy's James Franklin apologized for calling the Tide coach Nicky Satan, it means that he is dominating his field in unprecedented ways in the modern era.
Side question: Do you think Saban was more upset about the "Nicky" or the "Satan" part of Franklin's comments earlier this year?
Third, Davis, the new Florida O-line coach, was trying to praise new boss Will Muschamp at a Gators fan event when he spoke. He did not mention the fact that he followed Saban from Miami to Alabama and spent three years working for Saban. So, he willingly worked for Saban — the man he called the devil himself — and cashed the checks.
Which means he was, by his own wrong and offensive description, willingly serving as the devil's errand boy. So, we put it to you Greg, in a metaphysical and hypothetical kind of way, which is worse, the devil buying a soul or an assistant coach selling his and then bellyaching about it?
We have been a life-long Dodgers fan. And yes, that is as tough as it sounds. The Dodgers have spent money on a shiny roster that looks great on paper and lousy in the standings.
In a lot of ways, they are the anti-Braves.
Looking at Atlanta's line-up after the Braves swept the Dodgers this weekend, is to see a ton of holes. It's also a chance to view the gang that has a 2.5-game lead over Washington in an NL East that has the complete appearance of being a two-team race all summer.
Freddie Freeman is a professional hitter. Chris Johnson is on fire, and Jordan Schafer has been better than Jason Heyward — Johnson at .342 and Schafer at .308 are the only regulars above .300. Justin Upton is a .275 hitter with power. There are issues, but this bunch wins with solid starting pitching and timely production.
The rest is confounding. And troubling. Sure, the injuries have been staggering, and the fact that the Braves are in first is a testament to a deep bench that has absorbed those injuries.
What happens hen Johnson and Schafer cool — and they will, considering each is hitting more than 60 points better than their career averages? It's going to be a summer of swings and misses and misses — yes, the strikeout emporium that is Upton, Upton and Uggla is on pace for more than 180 whiffs apeice. Maybe 'U' should be the new 'K' huh, Spy?
The Braves' troubles with the bats are magnified by the ailments in the bullpen, where set-up guys Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters are on the shelf for the season. Rhea County product Cory Gearrin will get a lot of chances to establish himself in the Braves' pen this summer, that's for sure.
This and that
— We're going to swing by ESPN 105.1 FM today around 5 p.m. and catch up with Jim Gumm and Wells. Give it a listen, don't cost nothing.
— This is one of the busier and crazier weeks in the TFP sports department with Spring Fling spinning on all cylinders. FYI — In case you missed it, you need to check out the Sunday sports section, with Stephen Hargis' words and Jamie Poole's design looking at the 20th anniversary of the Fling. Good stuff all around.
— Sang Moon Bae — not totally sure but we're pretty certain he's not from Hixson — won the Byron Nelson Championship on Sunday. He made more than $1.2 million for his efforts. Former Baylor School golfer Harris English finished tied for 17th ($97,150).
— The Memphis Grizz took one on the chin Sunday — sorry Downtown. And rumor has it the Heat may play again sometime this spring. The NBA playoffs, where naps happen. Seriously, how long do these guys get between games?
We watched some of the Billboard Music Awards last night, and we have to say, it was puzzling to hear Justin Bieber get offended by boos and saying "the craft" and his music should be the only thing considered. (Side note: Hey, Beebs, if the craft and your music is all that should be considered, then come out with an acoustic set rather than the lip-synched dance productions. Also, if you are only doing this for the "craft" then start giving away those hundreds of millions. You can't have it both ways, big boy. You can't have your cash and spend it too.)
It was equally alarming to see the artist formerly known as Madonna — played last night by a Joan Rivers impersonator — and realize she has been doing this for 30 years. THIRTY years. Wow.
Madonna, in some ways was the perfect melding of personality + moment = superstar. If she had come along 10 years later, she could have been the chick from C&C Music Factory. If she had been 10 years earlier — pre-MTV — she would have had a hard time making it.
But she made the most of the new medium that was MTV and exploded on the scene, dominating the 1980s like the Lakers and Cosby.
What's your Rushmore of person + possibility = superstardom? Your people that cashed in big-time on the moment and the chance and became big-time stars?
We'll take Madonna, Chris Berman, Howard Stern and Isiah Thomas? Thoughts?
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 ...