NEW YORK CITY — From the satellite office in Times Square — hey, is that Jerry Seinfeld? Let's do this.
Wow, I leave town for a few days — took the kids to The Lion King last night, and watching it through their eyes was a very enjoyable experience as a father — and there are a ton of things to cover. Like a literal ton. Maybe even a metric ton.
Let's make the magic happen.
Fab 4 picks
We've had a couple of internal miscues on our picks. We put down the wrong spread, and it cost us a lost.
Last week, we tried to remove the Wisconsin-Kent State over pick and it did not save. (This was noted by an astute reader on Monday.)
We have, for the last few weeks, tried to keep the picks at seven, and that was the last one we thought we cut. (We actually cut a few more, like Ole Miss minus-7, Georgia minus-25 and under and a few other winners.)
Pickers gotta pick.
Navy minus-1 over Tulsa. Tulsa lost a heart-breaking, double-OT affair against SMU last week. Now comes the triple option of Navy against a team that allows more than 166 yards per and has given up 10 rushing TDs in five games. All signs point to the Middies here.
Memphis minus-5 over Temple. Hard to see the Owls scoring enough to stay in it with a Memphis team that is starting to stretch its rebuilding legs. Other than against Bucknell, Temple has not scored more than 27 in a game. Not enough against these Tigers.
Hawaii-Boise State over 60. Call this one a hunch. Hawaii can sling it.
Iowa State-West Virginia and over 52. Hard not to like the Iowa State QB and coach combo, which is especially important when making arguably the Big 12's toughest conference trip.
Washington minus-6 over Arizona. Seems like teams headed in the opposite direction, I know. But at its core, it's Chris Petersen vs. Kevin Sumlin. Edge: Washington.
UNLV-Vandy over 56. This is a match-up of two very poor defenses. UNLV has allowed: 23, 42, 30, 53 and 38; Vandy has allowed: 30, 42, 66, 18 and 31. Eight TDs should be doable — in the first half.
Missouri minus-11 over Ole Miss. Since its inexplicable loss to Wyoming to start the season, these Tigers have been the SEC's most consistent gambling friend, going 4-0 overall and against the number. Yes, please.
Last week: 4-4 against the spread (with an editing mistake, alas)
This season: 20-21 against the spread (getting close)
Chopping the chop
Holy bleep people, I walk into a museum and then a Broadway show and everything we know and love about baseball is overhauled on a Wednesday in October.
I guess it started with news that it appears the Chop is about to get chopped from Braves games.
Backstory: The Braves pulled the traditional free foam tomahawks from the seats at SunTrust because one of the Cardinals relievers whose granddaddy was Cherokee said he found the Braves fans doing the traditional chop "disappointing" and "disrespectful."
Buckets, where do we begin? Why is this a thing now, may be my first question. The Braves have had protestors almost every year about something, but one player on one opposing team has this much say over an entire organization and 40,000-plus fans in the building? Seriously, one guy. Whether it became a distraction for the team, who knows. Whether it took energy from the building, well, I'd bet all the travel money in my pocket it did. (Side note: Man, e-currency has made travelers checks as dated as the VCR, no? I can remember the Karl Malden commercials for American Express travelers checks and thinking, "Wow, that makes a lot of sense." Now, good luck finding anyone under the age of 40 who has any idea what I am writing about.)
Where does Helsley take his complaints from here, across the river to the Kansas City Chiefs? How about the one that actually seems offensive to me, who, yes, is likely the whitest guy you know. (Who else among us gets called a "fat-faced racist" on a fairly regular basis?)
While we are here about our woke culture — that phrase seems so limiting, no? — and I will get back to baseball in a minute, the growing controversy for the NBA is becoming a real deal. It's almost as if the NBA looked over at the Colin Kaepernick situation and said, "Yeah, hold my beer."
You know the backstory about the hubbub in China, a controversy started by an NBA team executive actually standing up for democracy and supporting Hong Kong protestors in their pursuit of freedom.
Yes, it looks like it will cost the NBA $1 billion, but on its face there's simply no way that Americans can be mad at supporting democracy and encouraging freedom, right?
Well, the league booted fans from at least two NBA games in the last couple of days for having the audacity to bring "Free Hong Kong" signs or chanting similar messages after the Chinese National anthem in exhibition games against teams from China. Yes, you read that correctly.
Now, President Trump has come out taking shots at NBA coach Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich for their very tepid quotes on the NBA-China riff. Trump's message, which in generalized terms is that neither is willing to say anything bad about China, but more than happy to blast Trump or conservative leadership at any turn, is hard to refute. (Side note: Fire away at Popovich, I think he is an overrated, narcissistic jackwagon, but I would advise you to be quite careful waving the Red, White and Blue at Kerr, whose father was a university administrator at American University in Beirut and such a proponent of peace in the Middle East in the late 1970s and early 1980s and against the hatred terrorists were spewing that he was assassinated by jihadists in 1984. That's making the ultimate sacrifice for peace, friends.)
It's easy to understand, because it's business. The league does not care and even supports its players taking on issues that it deems to be non-threatening to the bottom line. And throwing stones at Trump is easy these days. Heck, if Kaep had found a protest model that was against racism or mocked Trump that did not go against the U.S. military and patriotism, he likely would still have a gig.
Which leads us to the unequivocal ranking of sports bonds you can't alienate:
2. Billion-dollar sponsors (because the last time the NBA acted this swiftly, this unAmerican and this covertly, it was ripping Donald Sterling's team away from him because of a lifetime of being a dolt, and it was done not for social justice but because the loss of billions was at stake.)
One last note: How head-scratching is the NBA's understandable financial decision to protect a billion bucks but to support a communist dictatorship over peaceful protests for freedom? Well, know this, AOC and Teddy Cruz — two Congress folks on the polar opposite of almost every issue — joint-signed a letter to Adam Silver urging the league to stand strong against Chinese threats. (Side note: Wonder why AOC could not have the same stance in the trade fight against China that Trump is wagering? Wait, never mind, that would be asking for logic in political dealings.)
Back to baseball
And that was only one of the storylines from a couple of enormous Game 5s with huge ripple effects moving forward.
> The Cardinals showed their true Busch league feathers in a multitude of fashions, and that's not even counting the itty bitty feelings of a reliever that doomed this Game 5 before it even started. First, the Cards have been jackwagons all series and made us understand why Wes Rucker hates them with the passion of 12 suns. Well, they handled their BID-ness in Game 5 quickly, scoring 10 in the first and turning the win-or-go-home game into a macabre reminder that it's been almost two decades since the Braves last won a playoff series in 2001. Then, for the second time in the series — this time up 13-1 — the Cardinals throw at and intentionally hit Ronald Acuña. Here's a story on the postgame speech from Cards manager Mike Shildt all but admitting such.
> After the game, Brian McCann called it a career. There was no comment on whether he was so sick to his stomach that a) the foam tomahawks were removed or b) no Braves pitcher had a sack of baseballs big enough to protect the best player the franchise has developed since at least Chipper and maybe The Hammer.
> If you are Acuña, how ticked off are you right now? No pitcher had your back either time you got plunked. You went 8-for-18 with four walks and four extra base hits, yet only scored once — on your own homer, mind you — because 3-through-5 in the lineup could not hit either butt check with either hand and the only thing people including your manager, teammates like Freddie Freeman (more on that duo in a second) and others said about you the whole series was you didn't hustle out a ball you hit off the wall that was single rather than a double. Friends, like it or not, this is Acuña's team moving forward, not Freddie Freeman's, especially with the way those dudes played in this series. And if the Braves do not realize it, they are going to lose a generational Hall of Famer as soon as his contract ends in a few years when he's 27 years old.
> Freeman was dreadful in this series. Dreadful. He left half of Hixson on base and he was 2-for-16 in the first four games before adding a 2-for-4 Wednesday to pull his series average to .200. He had one more RBI than Spy because, well, he hit one more homer than Spy in the series. And how about this stat: In a nip-and-tuck series for the most part, three of his four hits, including his homer, came in at-bats in which the Braves trailed by 2 runs (the solo homer in the ninth of Game 1) or 10 or more runs (Wednesday). Hey, I get trying to play hurt, but when playing hurt hurts your ball club, the manager can't afford to hurt your pride and sits you down. Speaking of which:
> Brian Snitker. Well, this is a tough one, friends. He had a great regular season. But he's been at best a bad postseason manager. And the decision to start your most effective pitcher in Game 3 because he's good on the road now means your most effective pitcher got one start in a five-game series. Yes, it's easy to second-guess any manager that loses a series because baseball is a game based on second-guessable decisions, but I will leave this question for the group and then move along: Do you ever see Brian Snitker being able and capable of winning a World Series? Because that is the question the Braves have to ask themselves with some big-time names out there this offseason. Because this team filled with young talent has to have world-title talent and goals, and if you think Oh Snit can't get you there, then you need to pull that scab now and go find someone who can.
> Speaking of disastrous ends, wow, Dave Roberts, what the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks are you doing? You have the best team in the NL and you can't get out of the NLDS? Inexcusable.
> Speaking of which, uh, Clayton Kershaw, wow, have we ever had a bigger regular-season Hall of Famer and postseason middle reliever in the history of the game? His legacy will forever be postseason gag artist, even as great as he has been. In fact, his continued postseason shortcomings — which included back-to-back homers last night in the eighth to allow the Nats to tie the game at 3 before winning 7-3 in 10 — may actually hurt his Cooperstown candidacy.
> And man, did these NL playoffs just go from must-see TV to "Oh, they played last night" for this guy.
This and that
— Speaking of the NBA, here is the revamped lineup of NBA studio shows. It will be very interesting to see how the TV numbers come across in a season with so much promise as these controversies swirl.
— Coach K spoke out — and at length — about the Names, Image and Likeness bill in California (and soon in other states like North Carolina) and a couple of things are clear. One, it will certainly pass in N.C. if Coach K is on board. Two, he obviously reads the 5-at-10, using phrases like "head in the sand" and "time to act" on the NCAA's role in the new future. Well said, Coach K.
— Not sure how I feel about this to be honest. I understand the humanity of it, but this MSNBC reporter is discussing acts of war between Syria and Turkey and her 4-year-old comes on set and becomes disruptive. Yes, I understand part of the interweb rages about cuteness, but is there not a stagehand to keep that tot on the sideline for a few seconds?
— In a crazed-filled six weeks, it's actually hard to argue with Antonio Brown's logic on this one. By every sports-legal expert I've read who has weighed in on this, the Pats are going to have to pay Brown his $9 million. So if you are going to pay him, Brown says, "Why not play me?" And if this is because of his short-sighted zinger tweet at owner Robert Kraft, well, maybe he can spend a few days at a South Florida spa and have the kinks worked out. Anyone got any suggestions? Oh yeah, Pats by a million tonight.
Let's start here:
Brian McCann, Hall of Famer? (I say no because I always say no if you have to pause, but know this: The only catchers with more career homers are Piazza, Bench, Pudge and Fisk, and each of those dudes is in the Hall.)
Oct. 10, David Lee Roth is 65 today. Who else is on the current Rushmore of celebrities lucky to still be alive and kicking (aka the Keith Richards Rushmore)?
Go, and remember the mailbag.