Hoops and hopes
So, this is a pretty big week in SEC hoops.
We will get to the huge hoops hoopla in a moment, but first, cue Kojak and remember who loves ya baby?
The TFP, that's who. And the 5-at-10, that's who. Because we are giving away four tickets to the biggest regular-season SEC hoops game of the season and quite possibly the biggest game at Thompson-Boling Arena in a decade or more.
Wednesday night, 7 p.m. top-ranked Alabama comes to Knoxville to face the 10th-ranked Vols.
And we're giving away four tickets. Go here to register for your chance to win, and good luck, folks. If I was eligible, I would have already signed up for this one, friends. That's going to be some kind of craziness in Knoxville.
While the emotion and the energy will be through the TBA roof, those two teams are 100% in the NCAA field. The rest of the schedule across the league is dotted with desperation and touched with teams with true trepidation.
In a lot of ways, Auburn hosts Missouri tonight fighting for its NCAA hopes. The Tigers are reeling, having lost four of their last five. Missouri has played its way inside the bubble with a high-scoring attack.
Auburn needs a win in the worst possible way and really has to have at least two wins in its next three games against Missouri, at Vandy and against Ole Miss. That's especially true with a three-game stretch of at UK, at Bama and against UT to end the season.
That's tonight, but Wednesday, while the country will be focused on Bama-UT, Big Blue Nation knows it also has pretty much a must-win at Mississippi State.
UK is 16-9 overall and 7-5 in conference, but the Wildcats' margin of error is really thin with six games left.
(Side note: Don't forget to register for a chance to win those tickets here.)
So, driving home last night I hit a deer with my car.
Man, car hassles are the worst, you know? Yeah, it scared the stuffing out of me.
For a lot of us, though, the thought of change can be just as frightening.
Especially when it comes to things as forever known and familiar as the games we follow and love.
Like this wave of change that is coming and being made permanent to Major League Baseball.
It's quite possibly the biggest overhaul in my lifetime in terms of quantity and the most impactful since the DH was introduced in the early 1970s.
Pitch clocks. Bigger bases. Limited number of pick-off throws. Doing away with the shift. Making the "ghost" runner in extra innings permanent during the regular season.
Here's a detailed account of the changes and the goals from ESPN.com.
The simple truth is baseball is trying to create more action, especially on the base paths as the bigger bases and the pick-off limits are designed for more steal attempts.
And yeah, change is not my favorite thing, but baseball needs some help. We have all seen the dipping numbers and heard the dwindling discussions.
Heck, I can make a hard argument MLB made sweeping changes heading into 2023 and did not change enough, as in implementing the robotic strike zone.
Still, that can wait, I suppose, because MLB is trying to speed up its game for faster times with shorter attention spans.
That's a noble goal. Will it work?
I don't know, but I am more than willing to give it a shot.
A standing debate
So Kari Lake, Arizona governor runner-up, has found a new way to make headlines.
By sitting during the Black national anthem.
My questions are numerous and layered?
OK, first, how calculated was this for Ms. Lake?
Second, does Kari Lake sound a lot like a great fishing spot 50 miles north of Augusta, just across the Carolina state line?
Third, do you think Kari Lake stands for the Canadian national anthem?
Fourth, are you OK with Lake sitting but outraged by Kaepernick's stance to sit?
Her quote to Fox News after the photo of Lake sitting Sunday during the Black national anthem went viral is as follows: "I'm against a 'Black national anthem' for the same reason I am against a 'white national anthem,' a 'gay national anthem,' a 'straight national anthem,' a 'Jewish national anthem,' a 'Christian national anthem,' and so on."
Now there are the aforementioned layers here. (Side question: Has anyone ever gone wrong by bringing seven-layer nachos to the tailgate? I say no.)
Technically, standing for any anthem is a sign of respect, right? Did Ms. Lake stand for Babyface's "America the Beautiful" on Sunday?
There's also the very real interpretation that after Francis Scott Key's first verse of the "Star Spangled Banner" there is clearly racist language in the song.
It's impossible to have this conversation without the acknowledgement that Kari Lake is more than happy to step into this crosshair and rouse everyone's rabble.
It's also worth discussing should our national anthem be examined and potentially changed? Personally, I think "America the Beautiful" is the better of the two songs.
Lake's above quote was calculated and crafted. It plays to a lot of folks and is centered on unity while defending her personal attempt at division.
I would have stood. Would you?
This and that
-- Apparently Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was upset that Ms. Lake had center stage in the "I want my kind of unity" debate and has been railing against the "He is Us" commercials about Jesus in the Super Bowl, even using the word fascism in her complaints. Shocking, I know.
-- Both conversations -- not to be outdone, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was not pleased that "Lift Every Voice," the song known as the Black national anthem, was even performed at the Super Bowl -- will only grow moving forward because of the spectacle and the attention-grabber the Super Bowl has become. Commercials for causes and beliefs willing to spend that money -- $7 million for 30 seconds -- or opportunists like Ms. Lake in her photo op will only grow. Ms. Lake sitting out "Lift Every Voice" at a MLS game for example ain't going viral, you know?
-- To that end, did you see the numbers? An average of 113 million folks watching Sunday's Super Bowl. That's the third-most all-time and capped a bonkers postseason for the Shield and its shows. And, according to SportsMediaWatch, Rihanna did better than the game, averaging 118+ million for her 17-minute show. So there's that.
-- Wow, today is the five-year anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas mass shooting in Florida. Five years.
-- And now comes word of another school shooting tragedy, this one at Michigan State, where three are dead and five more have been injured. Gang, you can be a gun owner and a Second Amendment advocate -- I am both -- and still see the desperate need for better gun control efforts.
-- Congrats Jason T, who got an impressive seven of the nine questions -- missing the color of the Gatorade and the last TD -- and guessed 42 rushing yards for Mahomes. These results are unofficial, so if you have beef -- or even if prefer a plant-based meal -- speak now or forever hold your peace.
-- Speaking of betting, the Plays of the Days is scorching right about now. We landed both college hoops games last night -- Miami winning outright at UNC and Baylor covering against West Virginia -- and since last Wednesday, we are 14-2-1 against the spread. Egad. Our daily 1FTM -- which stands for 1 FOR THE MONEY and is our best bet on our board -- is now a staggering 53-31 since we started this path in late October, and we are now plus-34.05 units.
-- Loads of prep coaching moves, which means we have to turn to TFP sports editor Stephen Hargis, who has details of Phil Massey leaving Chattanooga Christian School to head back to Memphis and Hixson's Josh Owensby leaving for a spot on Soddy-Daisy's staff. You know the rules.
-- Speaking of rules, here's Paschall on the passing of Gus Manning, a true UT football legend.
-- And speaking of legends, here's longtime TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer saying his good-byes in today's fishwrapper, which is 40 years to the day from when he started at the old Chattanooga News-Free Press.
True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning, Ern.
True or false, you would love to win four tickets to UT-Bama. (Of course that's true. Can't win if you don't enter, so check it out here.)
True or false, we should change the national anthem.
True or false, you were among the 113 million who watched the Super Bowl.
True or false, you like the MLB rule changes.
True or false, both Auburn and UK make the NCAA tournament.
True or false, nothing can ruin your day -- in non-health-related matters -- quicker than car trouble.
You know the rules, answer some T or Fs leave some T or Fs.
As for today, well, it's Valentine's Day, which easily is the single most-egregious and overrated "holiday" known to man-kind. (True or false on that assertion is welcomed, too.)
Rushmore of hearts, and be creative.