Before we start today, let's pause and remember this day 18 years ago.
Pause and say a prayer or a word of thanks for those folks willing to run into the fire when we need them. It's crazy to think that a vast majority of school kids were not born on the day that my generation will never forget.
For those of you who serve, thank you for your courage.
For those of you married or related to those who serve, thank you for your support.
For those of you who want to harm America, go bleep yourself. (Not sure how big the 5-at-10 is in the anti-America, pro-terrorism circles, but just wanted to make sure we cleared all the tubes.)
Antonio Brown controversy, chapter 241
Well, there we all were, searching for something to watch. Or, maybe, getting ready for bed.
We were somewhere in between, clicking between the Dennis Rodman 30-for-30 and the "Law & Order" marathon on Sundance. (Side question: The early years of L&O are glorious, right? The days of Chris Noth and Jerry Orbach were aces, and the ones before that are better than we remember, too. Plus, if you have already seen a 25-year-old L&O, there's a real chance of not remembering the outcome. Side question on the side question: Is there anything more predictable and certain than the knowledge that the most famous guest star on the "crime/mystery" TV show is the perpetrator? I say no.)
And the bright-red 'Breaking News' bar scrawls across the bottom of the ESPN screen. The first two words made it as predictable as the early September summer-like heat in the South.
The rest of it rightly changed the tenor and the tone of the last month with the mercurial and magical football player, who has been the center of a slew of hard-to-believe off-the-field stories as he went from the Raiders to introducing the world to frostbitten feet in the summer to pondering retirement because of his helmet choices to battling with Oakland executives (and allegedly calling Raiders GM Mike Mayock a "cracker") to being released to being signed by the reigning champion Patriots.
"Antonio Brown accused of sexual assault."
The allegations are worse than the "sexual assault" tag, considering that his former trainer, Britney Taylor, says Brown raped her. (We need to be better about that, because, while neither is good, that headline needs to be "Antonio Brown accused of rape in lawsuit" because, in every other sense, the most extreme crime is the lead. If Dude A shot and killed Dude B, the headline is never "Dude A charged with felony gun possession.")
First, let's start here:
There is no he said/she said with bigger stakes than this type of situation. Plus, when it comes to matters of the heart, emotions can skew a lot of things and a lot of perspectives.
That is true for everyday people. It is magnified when you have millions of dollars involved and what people believe they deserve or have discussed or what in the future was planned or not planned.
In that manner, try to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but without any intent of trying the accuser because silencing the next victim is a dangerous and real unintended consequence.
That Taylor's lawsuit was filed only in civil court and not criminal court seems curious.
That the lawsuit includes some very obscene and threatening text messages — you can read it here — is quite damning, too.
So, who knows what's next because a) investigating matters like this takes time and thorough steps, and b) it's Antonio Brown, for Pete's sake.
But I believe this: Regardless of how this plays out in the macro sense, if the Patriots — the envy of the league because of their structure foundation and franchise — wash their hands of AB, it's really hard to see anyone else taking a chance on him ever again.
SEC power poll
OK, we do the NFL power poll on Tuesdays. That's a football season staple.
On Wednesdays this football season we will have the SEC power rankings. Deal? Deal.
In fact, we have an SEC segment in the 4 o'clock hour on Press Row on Wednesdays that includes the top 5 and bottom 3 across the league, so I will share my ballot here beforehand.
1. Georgia. Sorry, Bama folks, and yes, I am violating the "As long as Saban is there, I'm picking Alabama" theory, which is close to becoming a federal law and, for all I know if he wins it this year may actually have been the 11th commandment when Moses returned from the mountain top. The biggest difference between Georgia and Alabama right now is health. And a Georgia offensive line that has five NFL dudes (and more waiting their turn) blocking DeAndre Swift, who should be the first RB off the draft board.
2. Alabama. While Georgia has an extreme edge over every defensive front it faces, the same can be said for the Alabama WRs. Jerry Juedy looks like he is better than last year, when he won the Biletnikoff Award. No one is betting against him becoming the third guy to get back-to-back nods as college football's best WR. (The other two were Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon.)
3. LSU. If I had a Heisman ballot and it was due by lunch, I would be hard-pressed not to vote for Joe Burrow. Yes, Jalen Hurts has stats pads spinning like slot machine windows, but no one has a better performance against a quality opponent on a bigger stage than what Burrow did in Austin.
4. Auburn. As an Auburn grad, I know three things: Auburn's offense has been blah-tastic through two games this season; Auburn's two strengths — its defensive line and an experienced secondary — are not as good as the strengths of the teams atop this poll; and, Gus Malzahn must really like his team way more than I do. First there was the undeniable and clear confidence Malzahn carried at SEC media days. Then came Tuesday's meeting with the media, and a subtle — but hardly unintended and certainly not missed — jab at the whiny Alabama complaints about having to play too many games at 11 a.m. Central and the heat. Here's Malzahn's quote: ""Our guys are excited to be back home for our second home game. Playing a very solid Kent State team," Malzahn said, his face deadpan before delivering the kicker. "6 p.m. kick. Personally I wish it was at noon so we'd have more time to prepare for our next opponent." Egad, Malzahn poked the bear. (Or is it Bear? Wait. Now I'm confused.) As for me, I am all for Gus being the guy trying to wag the finger at, forget The Bear, Saban is the GOAT. I have had a front row seat on the Gus Bus/rollercoaster and have experienced the ups-and-downs. But I love sneaky, overconfident Gus Malzahn. (That said, go ahead and get that line on Alabama right now friends, because here's betting the Tide strength coach has already come up with a few hundred of those printed out for the weight room between now and the Iron Bowl.)
5. Florida. I almost had Texas A&M here, and I actually think Missouri is a smidge better than Florida, which will have its hands completely full this week with a Kentucky bunch that, as caller Wildcat Shay dubbed them on Press Row, "the Rodney Dangerfield of college football." And while we all know that UK QB Terry Wilson is done for the year, the Gators also are dealing with the noticeable absences of Kadarious Toney, a super-speedster on the perimeter, and CJ Henderson.
12. Vandy. Yes, the 'Dores are bagel-and-2 in blowout fashion. But Georgia and Purdue are bowl-bound bunches and represent arguably the two toughest tests to start a season. Still, Vandy better start finding some Ws if the bowl streak is to continue.
13. Arkansas. Simple math tells us the Razorbacks' 1-1 is better than Vandy's 0-2, but Arkansas is dreadful. De-RED-full. In fact, this may be the high-water mark for the Hogs, who are destined for the basement once/if UT figures things out.
14. Tennessee. Sorry, Steve, but there's no debating this right now. The Vols may be better come Columbus Day than either of the two directly above them — and maybe even a South Carolina team that is going to get baptized at home by Bama on Saturday — but the loss to Georgia State, which had to come back late to beat Furman last Saturday, is inexcusable. We had a great back-and-forth with a few people coming to the defense of Jeremy Pruitt. And I understand the conversation about time, and the dreaded spin cycle UT must avoid of changing coaches like Spy changes pick-up lines (about once every 2.5 years). But I am still waiting for someone to come forward and convince me why Jeremy Pruitt is going to be the guy, rather than preaching patience or giving him time to recruit (recruiting at UT has been really bad so far by comparison) and time to learn, or any other process-related, big-picture, fortune-cookie talking point. Losing to Georgia State is inexplicable, and I've said this multiple times and I believe it: UT loses Saturday, change must come Sunday. Agree or not? Also, it's quite telling that game 15 against UTC is not a will-win but a must-win, no?
This and that
— The Dodgers have clinched their seventh consecutive NL West title Tuesday night. Only the Braves and the Yankees have won more consecutive division championships.
— Wow, what a devastating injury for Milwaukee Brewers superstar Christian Yelich, who fouled a ball off his leg and will miss the rest of the season with a broken kneecap.
— France eliminated Team USA in the FIFA Basketball World Cup Wednesday morning. France. When your best American player is Donovan Mitchell, well, are you shocked by this? It's the first non-medal finish in the FIFA World Cup since 2002.
— We watched the Dennis Rodman 30-for-30, and while a lot of the Pistons stuff — his adoration of Chuck Daly, etc. — was covered in the "Bad Boys" 30-for-30, the post-Pistons stuff was pretty gripping. Here's a real strong testament on the strengths or weaknesses of a 30-for-30: If the Mrs. 5-at-10 pulls up a chair and gets into it, then it's likely going to be pretty excellent.
— Man, I thought this was interesting. It's the "Don't Risk It" anti-gambling information the NCAA sent to its athletes. It was equally parts Draconian (no fantasy leagues?) to one of those middle school sex ed videos that show the bees and the flowers.
— Rick Pitino is suing Louisville for something. Man, this feels like Dick Nixon suing the Washington Post for Watergate. Please go away, Count Pitino.
Which way Wednesday.
Which TV show in syndication is your fall-back, because I think "Law&Order" may be mine.
Which unmade 30-for-30 are you hoping for?
Which way you going on this question: Antonio Brown will never play in the NFL again.
As for today, well, we all know what the most important and impactful happening on Sept. 11 in history was.
On this day 20 years ago, Serena won her first Grand Slam title.
We mentioned him earlier, but Paul "Bear" Bryant would have been 106 today.
Rushmore of people with a nickname that includes an animal. Go.