The Mocs. What a win, right? And a two-point conversion trick play call in overtime to win it? Major league gumption there Coach Tom Arth. Well-played indeed. (Side Press Row note: Arth, as is custom after a Mocs football game in the fall, is scheduled to join us around 3:10today. Here's suspecting he'll be in fine spirits, as well he should be.) Here's UTC beat ace Gene of Many Hats Henley's TFP report on the Mocs 2-0 start.
The Braves. This is a young bunch — other than Nick Markakis — and there was a lot of consternation after last Wednesday's epic collapse against Boston. Giving up a 7-1 lead in the eighth to Boston last week at home could have derailed this magical summer tour as they headed West to face Arizona. The Braves battled back from continued bullpen issues and delivered a litany of comebacks to take three of four from the D-Backs, including a rally Sunday with a six-run ninth. Atlanta leads the NL East by a season-best 4.5 games. And can we talk about some individual awards for just a second? Brian Snitker is a no-doubter as manager of the year. Sneaky great stat: Atlanta has 56 wins in their final at-bat (including all three at Arizona) since Snitker took the helm in mid-May 2017. That's crazy, and shows a bunch that never gives in and never loses belief, a couple of traits that portray well on leadership. And for this 20-year-old stud duck named Ronald Acuna, well, forget just rookie of the year, dude needs some MVP consideration, too. Acuna has 25 homers — becoming one of just seven players with 25 homers before they turned 21 (Eddie Matthews, Orlando Cepeda, Al Kaline, Tony Conigliaro, Frank Robinson and Mell Ott, and six of those dudes are Hall of Famers). Acuna is 50-for-150 with 16 homers, 33 RBIs and nine steals since Aug. 1. Dude is a monster.
Texas A&M fans in general, and SEC West fans in general. Yes, the Aggies lost the game, but man if you're part of the 12th Man, you are stoked right now. You were a two-point conversion from shocking Clemson, which is almost universally viewed as the second-best team in the country. Since parting ways with Kevin Sumlin, who is not exactly setting the world on fire in the desert as Arizona is 0-2, the Aggies have hired Jumbo Fisher, who apparently has worked miracles on Kellen Mond, who threw for more than 4 bills against a Clemson defense that everyone — me included — has coronated as the college version of the '86 Bears, and has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country. And if there were stud recruits in the stands Saturday night, well, that was a rocking atmosphere. High times for what appears to be a very quick turnaround effort. And just another headache for an SEC West full of headaches. Alabama is, well, Alabama and clearly the best collection of talent in the country (and maybe the best collection of talent anywhere since Miami circa 2001). Auburn played mediocre at best and still scored 63 points. LSU is 2-0 and that defense is very LSU-like. We discussed A&M, and that now looks like a bigger chore than before. Mississippi State went to Kansas State and dominated without playing great. Ole Miss almost but 80 on someone. (Yes, the Rebels' D is far from tenacious and apparently allergic to tackling.) Which leaves Arkansas. Good luck with that.
On the other side of the SEC, we'll give co-Weekend Winner stickers to Kentucky, which ended the longest losing streak to one opponent with an impressive victory over Florida at The Swamp, and Georgia, which ended all drama in the SEC East with a muscle-flexing, eye-popping beatdown of South Carolina on the road.
Novak Djokovic. He notched his 14th career major title at Sunday's U.S. Open final. He is tied for third all-time in singles major titles with Pete Sampras, trailing only Federer (20) and Nadal (17). Man, has there been a worse era to be the fourth-best in any sport ever?
Bonus pick (from an up-and-down NFL opening Sunday): Packers fans. In the home opener that could have been as bad as Caddyshack 2, the game of Sunday happened in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field. Picture the scene: The hated-and-rebuilt-and-much-improved Bears in town. Chicago's new acquisition — linebacker Khalil Mack — was playing out of his good as he became the first player in NFL history with a sack, an interception, a TD, a fumble forced and a fumble received in one half. It was a fierce defensive first half that included the Packers fans watching in horror as Aaron Rodgers was carted off with what looked like a serious knee injury. Rodgers returned to a standing O in the second half, and with the Packers trailing 20-0 midway through the third, the best quarterback I've ever seen added to that lofty praise. His 75-yard TD strike to Randall Cobb capped the Packers' stunning 24-23 victorious rally. (Side note: Of course, Rodgers will have a full-blown MRI today, which will be administered among millions of prayers of folks looking for entertaining NFL reasons to watch. Side note II: Wow, the Bears looked good and that defense is going to be special.)
Weekend losers (and there were a lot of them)
Everyone who had the Saints in the 5-at-10 Survivor Pool. In what was the highest scoring opening-weekend game in NFL history, the Bucs toppled New Orleans and bounced roughly 15 percent of the 60 or so folks who entered. We promise to do a better job of posting those on Fridays. Our official results will be in Wednesday's 5-at-10. Deal? Deal. (Side note: Since this is a survivor pool, we have made the executive decision of ties survive. So if you had the Steelers, you are in the clear. If you had the Browns, you are also good but you need to send me the email to remind me because I am not seeing anyone with the Browns currently.)
Speaking of that inexplicable loss, the connected pair of Jamies Winston and Marcus Mariota who went 1-2 in the 2015 draft. In the opener of very, Very, VERY important seasons for each, Sunday's results will give decision-makers with the Bucs and the Titans pause. Mariota had the fifth-year option of his rookie contract picked up for the 2019 season. He will make more than $20 million next season as the Titans decide if he will get the mega-, nine-figure deal teams give to franchise QBs. Considering that he was 9-for-13 for 103 yards and two picks before being replaced by Blaine Gabbert after hurting his elbow is bad. That the Titans had a lone field goal until Gabbert entered the game and at least led to the end zone is worse. And the worst of course was that Winston watched during a suspension as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to 48 points against New Orleans. Winston's option for 2019 has also been picked up for 2019, but his replacement was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 21-for-28 for more than 400 yards and had five total TDs. Forget the question being on whether Winston's the long-term QB in Tampa, at this pace, when Winston returns from his suspension he may not get the QB1 job back.
The Fab 4 (plus a couple) picks. We went 2-4 with a couple of painful losses, (Aren't they all?) Arkansas was up 27-9 and lost 34-27 and Nebraska gained 565 yards and lost its \starting quarterback in a 33-28 loss to Colorado because of three sloppy turnover. We are now 7-5 against the spread this season. Our primary sin: Talking myself out of Alabama and Georgia because, well, sometimes you can get too clever by half.
Everything and almost everyone involved in the drama surround the women's U.S. Open final on Saturday. The optics of Serena Williams' loss to someone named Naomi Osaka, who won her first major championship, were dreadful. Williams was in tears after the match and called sexism on the chair judge. Williams was given a code violation for getting coached (a tennis no-no) between points. Hey, is it a dumb rule? Yes. But it's still a rule. That's on you Serena, and while everyone is calling for the rule to be changed it is what it is right now. Where Serena has a great point that should very well result in a suspension for chair judge Carlos Ramos is the double-standard in which she is viewed compared to male players. She was docked a point for breaking her racket, something that is done over and over again by men players with little to no recourse. That led her to call Ramos a "Thief" and for that he docked her a game. Which leads us to the universal lack of respect for officials of all sports, which is celebrated, tolerated and criticized in such a varying degree that it make sit impossible to know what any ref's go-to Crash Davis buzz word is. Regardless, in an age when women's sports needs all the positive attention it can get, when undoubtably the biggest star in women's athletics is involved and the optics are this bad, well, it certainly qualifies for losing the weekend.
The PGA Tour. Yes a Sunday rain out hurts, regardless where or when. But when Tiger is contending, it's doubly so. Now add the fact that more rain is coming today and there is a very real chance that what is the Fed Ex semifinals will be reduced to a 54-hole event — and leave a top-five star like Jordan Spieth on the outside looking in at East Lake as the No. 31 player in the standings — is even worse.
There are a slew of Weekend Losers from the college football world. Loads. Everyone who doubted Herm Edwards, because Arizona State is playing to win the games, and did just that against No. 15-ranked Michigan State. FSU fans, who are likely looking longingly over at the fun in College Station. (And don't you know that the comparative scores of A&M-Clemson and FSU-Clemson down the road will certainly reviewed with a fine-tooth comb in Tallahassee down the road.) And FSU coach Willie Taggert has company in the misery of other first-year coaches who've pooped their playbook to start new runs. Arizona's Kevin Sumlin looks dreadful this morning for a slew of reasons. (Arizona is bagel-and-2. Arizona's dark horse Heisman candidate Khalil Tate looks dreadful. Arizona State and a much-more maligned hire in Edwards is rolling. Texas A&M — Sumlin's previous stop — is too.) Chad Morris is leaving Arkansas fans scratching their head too. And as much as we love Dan Mullen, Saturday against Kentucky was a monster disappointment.
The NFL kicked off in full Sunday.
I watched. Did you? (Feel free to answer below.)
There are a lot of issues swirling around the NFL right now, on and off the field.
The quarterback play is so scattered that for those of us who watched and tried to convince ourselves that there are some young gunslingers who will help transition the game, well, the gap between the Rodgerses, the Bradys, and the Breeses and everyone else trying to play quarterback in RPO-systems with quick 3-yard throws and chuck-and-duck schemes is monstrous.
Second, it's never been more difficult — and certainly infuriating — to be an NFL official. We still do not know what a catch is. There were twice as many personal fouls illegal hits (14) this opening weekend as there were in 2017's opening weekend. And the line between well-officiated and poorly officiated has never been more pronounced (because of a slew of things including 15 camera angles and super slow more) nor more important.
We were once again reminded that the keys to victory in the NFL and those of us in the fantasy NFL start simply with injuries. Period, end of discussion.
And then there is the growing off-the-field controversy that is the protests during the anthem.
So far in the last week since the Nike decision to make Colin Kaepernick the face of their reboot of the "Just Do It" campaign there has been one small Christian school break up with Nike, a Louisiana mayor tell his parks and rec department to quit buying Nike gear and Tennessee state senator Bo Watson calling for an examination of the UT-Nike contract. (Side note: After we mentioned this in a column on A2 on Saturday, Watson put my Twitter handle in his post about his intentions. Let's just say my Twitter feed has been overflowing with the back-and-forth of politics mixed with football mixed with race allegations mixed with discussions of patriotism. Good times.)
And simply put, the NFL TV partners — all of them — for the most part ignored the protest talk.
So much so, that only from an Adam Schefter Tweet and story did we glean this very eye-popping news: The NFL will not have an official stance on the anthem this season.
Wow. What else at the NFL office could possibly be more pressing? Seriously.
When the TV numbers come home later today, it will be interesting to see how the general public responds, you know?
This and that
— How about these stats from the Cleveland-Pittsburgh tie: First, Cleveland missed a chance at the win — and a chance to unlock the greatest promo stunt in recent memory of the Bud Light fridges across Cleveland opening up and giving free beer to everyone if/win the Browns win — when Pittsburgh blocked a field goal in the final seconds of overtime. OK, first for the Steelers: Pittsburgh is now 80-0-1 when leading by 14 or more in the fourth quarter at home. For Cleveland: Since the Browns returned to the NFL in the late 1990s, teams with a turnover margin of +5 or better in a single game are 132-4-1. The Browns are responsible for two of the four losses and the tie Sunday when the Steelers turned it over five times and the Browns turned it over zero.
— How about those Twitter-trolling NFL free agents? Dez Bryant, who was cut by the Cowboys before the season, took to social media after the Cowboys were dismal offensively in a 16-8 loss to the Panthers. Le'Veon Bell posted one of those things that I guess showed a dude with a monocle, which we guess was supposed to be "Very Interesting" after the Steelers' dismal offensive showing in a 21-21 tie to Cleveland. Bell tried to clarify it with a follow-up post saying he had never seen a tie before, but the message was clear from Bell, who did not report because of contract disagreements with the Steelers. Pittsburgh had five turnovers — including a critical lost fumble from Bell replacement James Connor — and more than 100 yards in penalties in a home tie to the Browns, who did not lose on the scoreboard for the first time since 2016.
— Today is Sept. 10. More on that below. As for the MLB standings, well, let's review as everyone has roughly 20 games left: Boston is 98-46 and leads the AL East by 8.5 games; Cleveland is 81-62 and leads the AL Central by 15.5; Houston is 89-54 and leads the AL West by 2.5; Atlanta is 79-64 and leads the NL East by 4.5; Chicago is 83-59 and leads the NL Central by 2; Colorado is 78-64 and leads the NL West by 0.5.
— Late addition to the weekend losers could be Oklahoma, which lost running back Rodney Anderson for the season with a knee injury. Anderson's stats were pretty staggering. He had 119 yards and three TDs on 11 carries in five quarters.
— Sneaky great idea right here: The new AAF that will kick off in February is going next level and will equip players with wearable stat-gathering technology so that gamblers at MGM outlets can have a wide array of in-game gambling options. We know some you are against the legalized sports betting movement, and that's fine. But for a league like the AAF, any new idea to stand out is a risk super well worth it.
Tons of weekend winners and losers, so feel free to make your selection known.
Again: How much NFL did you watch Sunday.
OK, some national days to start. It's national world suicide prevention day. (Shouldn't that one be about every day friends?)
It's national TV dinner day. Old-school TV dinner, friend or foe?
As for Sept. 10 in history, well, let's review.
Wow, today is a big one in pop culture as it's the 25th anniversary of the debut of the TV Show "X-Files" and the 27th anniversary of the release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.
The first DUI was issued on this day in 1894, and a amazingly it was given to George Smith, an Englishman who was driving a taxi at the time.
Arnold Palmer would have been 89 today. Colin Firth is 57.
It's also National Hot Dog Day. Rushmore of best hot dog condiments. Go. (And think of it this way: If you only get to add one thing to a hot dog, what is.)