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AP file photo by Mark J. Terrill / Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is the AP's male athlete of the year for 2020, his fourth time receiving the honor. That ties the record held by Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods.

Fab 4 picks

Yes, the bagel-for-2 we took Wednesday dropped us to wait for it 8-8 on the bowl season.

In a year when all the breaks have felt like they have gone against us, well, the Fab 4 picks are limping into 2021 with two sprained ankles, a strained hammy, a sore calf and a hyperextended knee. No es bueno.

Well, with that thought, one of the semi-bright spots in this year has been the emergence of some of the next wave of country stars, who, while coming up in the lasting and lingering dirty circle of 'Bro Country' that has made Luke Bryan rich (and a borderline criminal) among others. (How's that for a tangent, huh, Alejandro?)

The emergence of Luke Combs as a headline act has been cool, and names like Morgan Wallen, Jon Pardi and Hardy have made listening to less and less ESPN and more and more country way more enjoyable.

Sure there are more than a few cringe-worthy folks doing the Twang thing, but from those above — and I thought about one of Wallen's breakthrough songs after pondering Chas' mailbag question — the cleverness and unabashed back-road redneck lyrics from Hardy (yes, his first hit was Rednecker Than You) are fun.

And isn't that what music and gambling are supposed to be about to begin with? With that, pickers gotta pick, and here's Hardy's "Give Heaven Some Hell." Giddy-up, and yes, the phrase "I had to take a pull so I wouldn't cry" hits me in the feels and make me think of giving my father's eulogy

(Side note: Not sure if I told you guys and gals this story or not, but when Pop died in August 2018, he died about two days after his younger brother, which happened about three days before the Mrs. 5-at-10's uncle died. I delivered the eulogies for my dad and my uncle and wrote the one for K's uncle Greg. We toyed with the idea of opening an internet side hustle called "Eulo-Jay" in which you send me some of the memories, likes and passions of your dearly departed and I craft a eulogy for your loved one. Is that idea ready for Shark Tank or what?)

(Side note on the side note: As good as eulogies were, when my son stepped to the pulpit — his name is Jerry Lee Greeson III — he was 10 at the time and he brought the house down. #Proudofthatboy.)

Where were we? Oh yeah, our Fab 4 picks. Fade or follow at your own peril friends.

Mississippi State pick 'em over Tulsa. Yes, I was fooled into thinking that Dan Mullen is one of those arrogant offensive guys who would pull out all the stops in the Gators' Cotton Bowl date with OU. I did not think Mullen would pull out all his starters before that though. I know Leach is one of those cats. Side note: Tulsa has a linebacker, wears 23, names is Zaven Collins and he is a bona fide dude's dude. Enjoy watching him fly to the football.

San Jose State minus-8.5 over Ball State. I think Leach may have said this first when ranking the team nicknames, but why are there not more 'Sharks' in terms of mascots? Heck, we're picking Sharks over Cardinals for a lot of reasons — SJSU's defense is the biggest one — and considering the run of mediocrity we're on, nicknames may be our hot-button redirection

West Virginia minus-6.5 over Army. Yes, 99 percent of the time I side with the military kids in bowl games. They want it more and the alternative is not video games and hanging out, it's being back at Annapolis or West Point putting in work. But this West Virginia bunch is athletic and I like their coach. That's enough. Or maybe it's not.

Bowl season: 8-8.

Regular season: 34-34.

Yep. And the bowl standings will be up today in the comments. Promise. Mostly.

 

2020 lingering lesson

Yeah, it's easy to come up with stinky parts of 2020. 

Deaths of iconic and impactful Americans like John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The loss of pop culture stars that range from Kobe to so many MLB Hall of Famers and acting greats that range from up-and-coming superstars like Chadwick Boseman to all-timers like Sean Connery.

The economic upheaval. Arguably the greatest division in our United States since Union and Confederacy were the sides being chosen.

The spinning wheels of awfulness never slowed, and more times than not, picked up speed. How bad was it? There was an extended period of 2020 in which we celebrated being able to mask-up and overpay for aerosol spray and Charmin.

How crazy were the headlines and overwhelming was the avalanche of bad news? Well, how's this, last January, the three biggest stories we could not get enough of were Trump's impeachment, the Astros cheating and Harry and Meghan saying thanks but not thanks to royal riches.

For goodness sake, in February, we were truly bent out of shape about Nancy Pelosi ripping up Trump's speech and the two not shaking hands and then Trumpy giving Pelosi a noogie and Pelosi placing a 'kick me' sign on Trump's back because let's face it, the hall of Congress have become an elementary school yard.

But then March happened and the world changed and we have been forced to change with it. The process has been unpredictably unprecedented and unprecedentedly unpredictable.

We can discuss the ramifications and ripple effects of 2020 that will become meaningful and lasting change in our society, but today's discussion is more reserved and more reverent.

We have changed, for the good and the bad through this. 

We have added phrases like flatten the curve and herd immunity to our vocabulary, but we in general have become more selfish in an insulated and isolated time that truly demands more social awareness.

We have become more cynical rather than more careful, more angry rather than active. 

We, as a nation, are looking for blame rather than wanting to accept personal responsibility, and that change has been a generation (or more) in the making but has been forged to steely strength of iron by the COVID fires of death and despair.

I wish I had answers, I truly do, and I know my responsibilities are to provide for and do everything I can to take care of my family first and foremost. And then do what I can to help those around me that need it.

Other than the loss of lives and livelihoods that have been wrecked by the tsunami of the COVID, I think my lasting memory of the disaster that has been 2020 is the shameful and downright sinful attempts to politicize and maximize this deadly virus for their own personal and/or political gain. 

And that is a wide and deep team picture that features a slew of folks on each side of the aisle, gang.

And they all should be ashamed, and moreover, we should all demand for better, during COVID and after it.  

God bless friends, and bleep off 2020.

 

Couple of amazing LeBron numbers

We discussed LeBron celebrating a birthday on Wednesday. Everyone sing along (Side question: Who's the "And many more" person in your family that always adds it to the end of the most sung song in the world? Because there's always one, right? Of course that was back in the pre-Corona days of gathering for birthdays and special events. Bleep off 2020.)

And you may not like LeBron for some of his takes and stances on social issues, and hey, that's your right. (I think you'd be wrong, especially since no two dudes get more of a bad rap for their rep considering all they do behind the scenes than LeBron and Cam Newton.) 

— According to Darren Rovell, LeBron James at the age of 36 has spent 48.6% of the days of his life as an NBA player;

— LeBron has made 10 trips to the NBA Finals, that's more than every other franchise not named Lakers, Celtics and Warriors. Chew on that. (The 76ers and the Knicks are next with 9 and 8 respectively.)

— LeBron has 11 triple-doubles in the NBA Finals after going 28-11-10 in the clinching game last October. That's more triple-doubles in the Finals than all of the current NBA players combined. Also of note, it was the 12th time James went at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the Finals. MJ and Magic are tied for second with four 25-10-5 Finals games. And, according to Forbes, LeBron has more 25-10-5 Finals games than Bird, MJ, Hakeem, Durant, Bill Russell and Steph Curry combined.  

— Again a fair amount of perspective is needed in terms of Finals' stats and statements, because in the last decade there have been 57 NBA Finals games. LeBron has played in 51 of them. But, playing in 51 of 57 NBA Finals games over the course of a decade is downright amazing in its own right too.

— As for the 'clutch' conversation, and how MJ delivered in the biggest of moments, well, got some sauce for that too. LeBron has the highest scoring average in elimination games in NBA history (34.9 per), and in closeout games, James is 39-11 (a .780 winning percentage which is way, Way, WAY better than this year's Fab 4 picks) and that's the best mark in NBA history for any player with 25 or more such games.

— Since 2004, LeBron has scored more playoff points than 10 NBA teams. Yes, teams. And yes, his playoff numbers are always going to skew positively for LeBron because there are so many more playoff games currently than in previous generations — It's why John Smoltz, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter are always good guesses when it comes to MLB postseason trivia — but garner this: James, all-time in NBA playoff history is first in points (7.491 — more than 1,500 clear of MJ), steals (445 — 50 clear of Scottie Pippen), second in 3s made (behind Curry) and assists (behind Magic), and sixth in postseason rebounds (behind some dudes you may have heard of named, Russell, Wilt, Duncan, Kareem and Shaq).

— LeBron James has now scored double figures in 1,000 consecutive games, easily the most all-time. (He passed Michael Jordan for the record with his 867th straight game with 10-or-more points. The last time James failed to get double digits was Jan. 5, 2007, a day that was four days before the original iPhone was unveiled and more than five months before it was released.

That last one made me smile, first from a consistency reason. Second, because 10-or-more points is a clear line of delineation for anyone who played high school hoops. Follow along.

Everyone knew that if you got to 10 points, there was a much-better-than-average chance to get your name in the recap/game story in the local fish wrapper. That's just the way it was.

I went from the second game of my sophomore year — at Douglas County when I made my first start and timidly took all of two shots — to senior night — in a blowout loss to McEachern in which I went 1-for-14 from the field and 0-of-2 from the line — with double figures in every game. Yep, being in the paper was a big deal to me, even back then.

Yeah, here's betting LeBron probably scored double figures in most of his high school games too, don't ya think?  

 

This and that

— Has anyone outside of politics made more money being this bad at their job than Todd Grantham? Egad, JTC, what the bleep was that?

— Cool story Eline from Lakers-Spurs on Wednesday night, as Becky Hammon took the reins of the Spurs after Gregg Popovich was ejected for being overly cheery and polite. She was the first female to lead an NBA team, a line item she rightly called significant afterward. Side question: What's the first thought you have when you hear about a hoops coach getting ejected? Is it Dean in the Final Four? What else? For me, it's always Norman Dale getting the heave ho and Shooter helping the Hoosiers win a big game by running the picket fence at 'em. "Boys, don't get caught watching the paint dry."

— Rest easy Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on the classic Gilligan's Island. She was 81 and died from the COVID. She also is the star of arguably the most famous question in TV history: "Ginger or Mary Ann" and in truth, it's been my experience that Mary Ann was about an 80-20 winner, but let's be really clear here, there was not a 'bad' choice in that either/or.

— From a regular reader and smart cookie: The numbers spent in the Georgia runoff are approaching $370 million. Wowser. 

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Alabama's great 2017 signing class and Georgia getting ready for the Bearcats.

— Gang, UT is serious business in basketball. That's a good squad with monster dreams within their perspective.

 

Today's questions

Mailbag spots, still available.

Loads of questions above.

As we head into New Year's Eve, we can ask a slew of questions.

Was there ever a celeb more connected to one holiday than Dick Clark and New Year's Eve?

Most overrated annual holiday? Because New Year's Eve is in the team photo.

Biggest 2020 takeaway for you, good or bad.

Heck we could just go the Rushmore of 'New' and let the chips fall where they may.

Stay safe tonight, friends.

 

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