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The D.C. Defenders, right, line up against the Seattle Dragons for the opening kickoff of the opening football game of the XFL season, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Stephen Whyno)

Weekend winners

College basketball Saturday. It was within the last week that we had the conversations about how much less fun college basketball has been this year compared to last. Then Saturday showed up and, well, we all know March Madness. Saturday was a February Frenzy. Duke and Auburn with crazy comebacks and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. A great atmosphere in K-Town as UK pulled away. And how about the Mocs, going on the road and completing the season sweep of Wofford? You know the drill: Here's TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer on the fun that was Saturday in college hoops. 

Dodgers (mainly), and Red Sox (kinda). OK, after the Red Sox realized the backlash of Red Sox Nation for not getting enough for dealing their best player since Teddy Ballgame, Boston reworded the deal and got more for Mookie Betts and David Price's contract. They added Jeter Downs — yes, Boston trading a star for a Jeter is ironic at its core — who is projected to be an everyday second baseman. But the Dodgers still win this deal because they simply had to do whatever it took to get Betts, the second-best player in the game, and push all its chips into the middle about winning it all now.

Nick Taylor. He started Sunday in what felt like a match-play showdown against the second-best player since Nicklaus was a Tour regular on arguably the most-iconic public courses in the country, if not the world. So it would have been understandable for Taylor to drop a 78, cash a six-figure check and watch as Phil Mickelson pulled away. Comparison of experience: Mickelson has almost as many wins (44) as Taylor had top-10s (46) before Sunday. But Taylor handled the rocky parts and let Mickelson fade for his second career Tour win.  

Hamilton County citizens. County Mayor Jim Coppinger stopped the county's much-maligned records destruction policy and promised more transparency and better rules sooner rather than later. Here's more. Friends, allow me to get my professional soapbox out and congratulate TFP colleague and local government ace Sarah Grace Taylor, who forced this much-needed change even if most of us did not know that we needed this change. I hope I bring a smile or a laugh or something that makes you think each morning, and for you newcomers to these parts, I hope you are enjoying your free 30 days. (If you know someone who might enjoy the 5-at-10 during this free phase, send them to timesfreepress.com/pressrow and sign up for the morning newsletter.) But this morning conversation is about a lot of things. Sarah Grace's excellent work is why local journalism is extremely important. For all of us. Well-played, SGT. Well-played indeed.

"Parasite." The movie dominated the Academy Awards on Sunday night. I doubt I'll see it. In fact, I've seen exactly one of the nine nominees ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.") and other than "Ford v. Ferrari" and "The Irishman," the rest are pretty iffy.      

 

Weekend losers

MMA. Hey, it's tough for a lower-tier sport in terms of popularity to complain about this much chatter about their events. But man, the last thing boxing or MMA ever need is a strong feeling that the fix is in for arranging future fights and paydays. Jon Jones winning by unanimous decision has received that kind of blowback, including a lot of folks wondering if he even won the fight, never mind winning it in straight decisions.

Along those same lines, wow, NASCAR, you started this weekend with the Daytona qualifying race. Who knew? (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start in the pole, and if he wins the 500, do we start to wonder if Danica Patrick is a jinx? Discuss.) Just kidding, DP — you know she reads — but man, if there are this many crickets before the one NASCAR race almost all sports fans can name, well, that is not a good sign.

AJ Hinch, and everyone involved in the Astros cheating scandal. Hinch gave a lengthy interview and discussed the Astros cheating scheme. The former Houston World Series win embraced the five Ds of dodging questions — "dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge" — and looked more senator than skipper and more crisis manager than man. This is not going away until someone owns this thing, friends. In truth, whatever the mistakes the commissioner's office made in giving far too many players immunity, the powers that be in baseball need to figure out who is going to give some real answers on this puppy. Hinch, when asked why he didn't stop it, offered the "wished I would have," and then went straight to the Hallmark card, grade-school "Right is right and wrong is wrong, and we were wrong." Oh, you think so, doctor?  

Barry Booker. The SEC Network analyst stepped on his tongue over the weekend. During a promo for an upcoming SEC gymnastics broadcast, Booker offered  "Go hang out with the ladies, I mean I wanna go see some scantily clad girls." Hmmmm, yeah, no. Would be surprised if Booker is not suspended for multiple days and would not be entirely shocked if he is let go.

 

Successful debut?

I ask whether that term applies to the XFL.
Was it successful? The numbers were better than the AAF's first weekend, so there's that.

Will it translate? Impossible to know, because there is only one first time, and after that, the novelty must become the quality.

But here's what I do know:

I enjoyed watching the XFL this weekend. I like the broadcast and the broadcast team of Game 1 with Steve Levy and Greg McIlroy in the booth and sideline reporters Dianna Russini and Tom Luginbill. I loved the access the reporters got — Russini interviewed a kicker after missing a 35-yarder and both reporters were allowed into the locker rooms at halftime.

I'll be interested if the access to the play calls and the open mics between coaches and skilled players continues if the league gets bigger, because doesn't that invite an Astros-like cheating possibility?

I liked the rules variations. The kickoffs were different, and you better get used to those because the NFL is looking for ways to make kickoffs safer.

I loved the transparency of the officials' audio being on. It showed a discussion on a roughing-the-passer flag being picked up and, of course, the insight to the review process, which is getting rave reviews.

I loved the faster pace, which also introduced us to the red hat — the official in the, you guessed it, red hat, who has one job and that is to spot the ball. The 25-second play clock was a hit.

I enjoyed the way the announcers and the broadcast graphics that included the spread and the over/under embraced the gambling aspects of the modern-day sports viewing.

Loved the multiple options of extra points because of the increased strategy and the expanded drama of having a nine-point lead be a one-score game, etc.

And why was Saturday the first I heard that the winning roster got $100K bonus, which is another great idea?

For me it was an overwhelming success, but I want it to succeed. (I also wanted Aaron Murray to play much better than he did. Egad, he was bad.)

 

This and that

— Here's Weeds again on college hoops, this one on Chas' beloved UK Wildcats winning in K-Town.

— Speaking of college hoops, I was intrigued by the Bobby Knight event in Indiana. No one could deny the emotional state of all the real and human interactions and the scars on all sides. But I think Bobby Knight is the face of the bullying nature that has been glossed over by the "Toughen 'em up, Coach," mumbo jumbo that gives absolute (bleep)holes a free pass to be (bleep)holes. What is Knight's legacy? College hoops success? Yes, that may be the first thing we all remember. But he was an unhinged, out-of-control bully who would have been arrested multiple times — how many other university employees can choke students, kick students, verbally abuse students on multiple occasions? — for his antics. He also was the original total (bleep)hole to the media that fans and other media members thought was funny for whatever reason.

— And speaking of Knight, that and the Gayle King interview with Lisa Leslie about Kobe's legacy and the sexual assault allegations in 2003 in Colorado got me thinking as storytellers where do the negative details go in the narratives of these controversial figures who are beloved and complicated? Interested in your thoughts, because they are certainly part of it, but timing and touch certainly must be weighed in the story-telling process.    

— Hey, our picks went 3-1 this weekend; hitting the Wildcats, who were close to a pick 'em Saturday and they won by double digits as well as the Roughnecks and the BattleHawks. That makes us 24-19 on college hoops and 2-1 on the XFL. Hey, it's nowhere close to the torrid pace that my man Brian Edwards is hitting — gang, he's rolling at better than 63 percent on NBA picks against the number all season. Brian likes to say he's picking and grinning. This year, he's been picking and winning. Check him out here.  

— Speaking of the PGA Tour, friend of the show and Baylor School grad Keith Mitchell finished T-32nd and pocketed $43,550. Keith played in the Pro-Am event with Joe Monahan, who is the dad of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who played with Harry Higgins in the same pairing for the first three days of the event.

— Update of a name we know: Mo'ne Davis, the female pitcher who became a superstar at Williamsport in the Little League World Series, made her college softball debut with Hampton over the weekend. Congrats.

— Right there with Weeds on college hoops is our man David Paschall, the TFP college football wizard on everyone's favorite sport. Here's DP on Kirby Smart preaching patience with the offense. (Huh, Kirby, you know college football fans and patience are not on speaking terms these days, right?)

— Speaking of the XFL, thought this was an interesting read in which XFL commissioner Oliver Luck reveals the league contacted Colin Kaepernick about playing and he wanted an exorbitant amount of money. It also reignites the question of whether Kaepernick actually wants to be an NFL quarterback again, because if he went to the XFL and torched the league, well, can you imagine the drum-banging his supporters would start?  

 

Today's questions

Weekend winners and losers. Discuss.

Was the XFL debut a success, a big success, a flop or a "What is this XFL thingy of which you speak?"

Sunday was National Pizza Day, but when your son loves pizza as much as mine does, every day kind of feels like National Pizza Day. https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/free-pizza-deals-national-pizza-022508624.html

Today, Feb. 10, though, is a special day around these parts. Did you know on this day in 1942, Glenn Miller got the first-ever gold record for selling 1 million copies of "The Chattanooga Choo Choo." How about that?

Greg Norman is 65 today. The Shark is a great golf nickname, no?

The "Tom & Jerry" cartoon debuted on this day 80 years ago. Rushmore of cartoon nemeses. Go.

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