Journalists gather for a press conference that was later postponed ahead of an NBA preseason basketball game on Thursday between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK CITY — From the satellite office in Times Square — Hey, is that Jimmy Fallon? — let's do this.

SEC rankings

We are on vacation. Good times.

Before we get too deep off track, can we cover ever so briefly how the English language has been slaughtered with text shorthand, complete and total misuse of easy words and the inexplicable, random abbreviation of words that really do not need or do not have proper abbreviations.

The word vacay comes to mind. Especially when, rather than saying "We're taking a vacation" people will use "We're taking a little vacay."

The very reason for abbreviations is to be brief. That is not brief. Or cool. It's nonsensical. Or, in today's parlance, it's a lotto nonsense.

See, I'm hip.

1. Georgia. We've said it time and again about the best three teams in the country — Georgia, Alabama and THE Ohio State, in whichever order you like — those reside on a different level when fans are bemoaning the effort or the preparation in a four-touchdown conference win.

2. Alabama. The Tide have the biggest single advantage — their passing — over every team not in the NFC North. Will that be enough to cover its injury-riddled, freshman-filled D?

3. LSU. The Tigers start their gauntlet this week with Florida. Or in today's vernacular, is that 'gaunty' instead?

4. Florida. Monster win for Dan Mullen and his efforts to rebuild that program last week in The Swamp. Can't really be overstated. In this week's line that is too good to be true (and likely will be), the Gators are getting 13.5 from LSU on Saturday.

5. Alabama's back-ups. Auburn stinks. Heartbreaking loss filled with painful freshman QB mistakes that came with zero help from his OC/head coach. Not sure how you can fail that many times on third-and-less-than-2, but I know the Tide second-stringers wouldn't. That said, Derrick Brown, you are an absolute dude. Thank you for the effort.

12. Arkansas. Yep, I believe more in the Hogs than most. That said, tough spot to welcome a very angry Auburn bunch to Fayetteville this week. That one may get one-sided quickly. Or Auburn may lay down. Such is the plight for the Auburn fans.

13. Vandy. This is a tight call, but Vandy has a win over an FBS school; UT does not.

14. Tennessee. When you are looking for silver linings in a worse-than-four-TD beatdown from a team you a) expect to compete with and b) have competed with/beat as recently as three years ago, well, no es bueno.

NBA controversy

It is shaping up to be a banner year for the NBA.

There is no true Super Team like the Warriors of the last five years. A team that if it stayed healthy, the only remote title drama was "Warriors or the field" all year long. (Yes, it was the field, but, sorry, you can't convince me that if KD and Klay stay healthy, the Raptors beat the Warriors.)

There is real star power in L.A. — and drama — and there is real team talent in Boston.

There are eight-to-10 teams that could win it, and that's amazingly high compared to the last decade-plus.

But all the NBA talk right now is about Houston GM Daryl Morey.

Morey, who is arguably the Billy Beane of the NBA with his use of analytics and new NBA math, tweeted support for Hong Kong protestors.

It has set off a ripple effect of interesting hot takes and positions of finger-pointing and interweb Morality Mob movements.

At its intended core, Morey's social media post was a defense for democracy and people protesting for their freedom from a communist dictatorship that has ruled China for centuries.

That's hard to argue against being an American, right?

Well, China has had kittens about this. Universally, including the new Nets owner who is named Joe Tsai, who posted a firm stance against Morey's opinion on his FaceSpace page. (Yes, you can say Tsai is arguing against democracy, but as we've seen in this example, picking words — and a side — has been quite perilous.)

China has now all-but-stopped business with the NBA. This is very troubling for the NBA, considering there are more than 1 billion folks in China and they love the NBA in general, and the Rockets — who had arguably the biggest (literally and figuratively) Chinese sports star of all time Yao Ming on their roster — in particular.

This has created backlash from the league office because, well, losing 1 billion customers makes the dip the NFL took because of the Colin Kaepernick protest look like Chick-Fil-A putting grilled nuggets into your fast-food bag rather than regular nuggets.

Of course, the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN, has said next to nothing in general about this. (Good thing Dan LeBatard is on vacay this week, too, huh?)

That is the interesting dichotomy of this event.

When it changed its leadership, and in response to a lot of conservative criticism, ESPN answered the 'woke' complaints with a company-wide mandate to "stick to sports."

Conservatives applauded that.

Now, conservatives are outraged because ESPN is sticking to sports, and claiming ESPN is staying out of this because of its financial ties to the NBA, which is certainly being kicked in the checkbook because of this.

Which brings us to the political divide on this:

For those that think/believe that the NFL has every right to keep Kaepernick sidelined, do you not think the same about Morey?

Granted, you likely agree with the takes and stances of Morey more than Kaepernick, but if the league is acting with its wallets more than in terms of talent, then shouldn't Morey be on the Do-Not-Employ list too, since there are reports that this controversy could cost the NBA billions of dollars?

(Yes, Morey's very good, but you can't tell me Kaepernick did not have more skills than David Fales, Alex Torgersen (twice), Sefo Liufau, Wes Lunt, Skyler Howard, Dane Evans, Keith Wenning, Chad Kanoff, or a large number of the other almost 90 QBs who have signed since Kaepernick opted out more than two years ago.)  

To pretend that Kaepernick is not on a roster because of the protests is to pretend that the protests did not represent a monster consumer turnover for the league. Period. Each part of that statement seems very clear at this point, no?

Should Morey see the same fate, if the league is going to view this as a business decision?

And conversely, from someone who has wondered aloud if ESPN has deviated too far from its original mission statement a few years ago before the change in leadership, if you wanted ESPN to shut up and focus on sports, then how can we demand it take a stand on a politically issue now?


Speaking of controversy

Holy buckets, did you guys see this?

Yes, that's a call for a $60-a-car-wheel tax. Every year.

And wait for it — to go to the school system.

Yes, the same school system that is facing a growing backlash of discipline issues.

Yes, the same school system that is building its house on faux testing numbers that measure improvement rather than preparation, knowledge or effectiveness of the process, policy and programs.

(How nonsensical are the much-ballyhooed test numbers on progress? Well, going from zero to 3 is viewed as a tremendous triumph, way better than going from 4 to 4. But those students that averaged a 3 are still working at a failing level, and in the process of still failing a majority of the kids at a 3 school, the system did nothing to help the overall students at the 4 school. Think about that.)

Yes, the same school system that has had its hand out for years despite keeping its hands in its pockets when meaningful academic change has been called for.

Sure, we have a slew of social justice warriors lined up for any number of non-academic changes from preschool counseling and a battalion of truancy officers to year-round free lunches for everyone so we do not make anyone feel bad.

(Side question: While we are here, have you noticed that the school system rightly is happy to get help from religious operations like Snack Pack Ministries as long as, you know, no one tries to actually Thank God at a football game or something? Just a thought.)

And none of that is even the most troubling part of this proposal, which reportedly was suggested by UnifiEd-mouthpiece-county-commissioner David Sharpe.

The worst part of this $60-a-car tax? According to Sarah Grace Taylor's excellent story in today's TFP, the wording in the draft for the wheel tax to be put on the ballot next March is, if passed, that huge windfall of money would be used for — wait for it — "salary increases in Hamilton County's education department."

You have to be kidding me. Have to.

No word about the hundreds of millions we will need in facilities. Nope.

This is for salary increases. Yes, salary increases, and not just for teachers, for the bloated bureaucracy that has bogged down this county for as long as I've been here.

And before we even get to the conversation of teachers and their pay, this seems like a very opportune time to remind everyone of the series of unfortunate events that happened this summer when the school system was looking for $34 million in property tax increases:

> Tax idea floated with the linchpin being giving teachers a 5 percent raise across the board;

> Tax play debated with conversations going back and forth, including offers of ways to drop the total request and keep the 5-percent teacher raise in place, which was not an option in the school leadership's eyes;

> Tax increase wisely voted down, and the revised budget request did not include raises — rather a one-time bonus — but still kept more than 180 new employee hires in the budget.

Now this? A back-door slider looking for raises — finally — in a way that should scare us way more than we realize.

OK, according to Hamilton County numbers, in 2018 there were 364,286 folks in our fair county. If a third own a car, a motorcycle or motorized bicycle that's roughly 121,429 vehicles with an extra $60 price tag on them.

That's $7.285 million (and change) annually, friends. Every year. And, as our budget and tax base has grown through the years, that number will only rise as our population rises, too.

Which means, that, if passed, the slick folks on Bonny Oaks will get their cake (raises) and make us eat it, too.

That this one-time election could be greatly influenced by a well-heeled and organized political action group like UnifiEd is an end-around across the hierarchy of county government. Don't you wish Jeremy Pruitt called plays as creatively?

And know this, the UnifiEd people are well aware that popular persuasion is easily had with students going door-to-door, especially when the goal of convincing an impassioned minority of the county — whether they have friends or family working for Hamilton County schools or students in the HCDE system — is much easier than changing the mind of diligent, right-minded, fiscally conservative elected governmental leaders.

Makes me really wish the UnifiEd folks were as good at education as they are at politics.


This and that

— OK, Braves and Dodgers are at home in very loseable Game 5s of the NLDS today/tonight. The Braves face Stephen Strasburg with the knowledge that Max Scherzer is likely the first Nats pitcher out of the 'pen. The Braves face Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty. Know this: An NLCS of Cards-Nats would not make me best pleased.

— Somewhere up above my penny-pinching father mumbled a salty Southern word and sighed. At dinner last night, I had a Co-Cola. For those of you who know me, that is not news. Having only one, however, could be, especially on "vacay." Well, it was a $9.50 Co-Cola. Who can afford to tie one on in The Big Apple? Egad.

— And we are here. Milford High School in Ohio named two female students homecoming royalty and has decided to do away with the titles of homecoming king and queen. We have that but can't have a pregame prayer. And we wonder why we're in such a state in this country.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

Which way will the blame fall if the Braves lose today? Same question for the heavily favored Dodgers.

Which division series home team facing a Game 5 — Braves, Dodgers, Astros, is most vulnerable?

Which is worse right now, being an Auburn fan (and having your hopes consistently lifted, losing a game you likely shouldn't annually and then landing hard in the rock pile of 8-4/7-5 every year) or being a Tennessee fan (and thinking the worst will happen and more times than not getting it but not having that stress and heartbreak)?

Which American city is your favorite to "vacay" in?

As for today, Oct. 9, well, John Lennon would have been 79 today. Imagine.

On this day in 1926, NBC was formed.
Rushmore of all-time NBC shows. That's a tough one.