Everyone involved in the completion, the opening and the dazzling debut ceremony Saturday for the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center. Kudos to all, and it's somewhat fitting that the next piece of our downtown commitment to a better 'burg is right there next to the aquarium, the original community venture that was the catapult for Chattanooga proper.
Tyson Fury. The skillful giant all-but dominated Deontay Wilder on Saturday night in a heavyweight fight that harkened back to the day when a heavyweight title fight caught the attention of the sports world. (Side question: Is there a better time for crazy folks in individual endeavors than right now, considering Fury is the face of boxing and Joaquin Phoenix is the actor du jour? Fury's antics — the American Pie rendition after the fight, the blood licking during the fight — were as surreal as his domination of the previously unbeaten Wilder.)
Tennessee baseball. An impressive start to the season — wait, that's entirely too soft. A perfect start to the season with a 7-0 weekend that included wins over two ranked teams, including top-ranked Texas Tech.
The NBA. Yes, the TV numbers have been bad this season. (But other than the NFL, the TV numbers are down in every sport.) But a Sunday afternoon date with Celtics-Lakers and getting a game like that with a finish like that deserves a tip of the visor. Yes, the Lakers won by a bucket, at home, with no Kemba Walker on the floor for Boston. Still, this was fun. And the shadow of Kobe — his public memorial will be today — was understandably palatable. Also of note: Props to Bill Russell, the forever Celtic great who sneezes class, for showing up in a Kobe jersey Sunday.
David Ayres. Do you believe in miracles? Yes. On the weekend when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the magical miracle on ice in Lake Placid in 1980 when the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets, came news of a 42-year-old Zamboni driver coming off the ice-cleaning machine and helping the Hurricanes to a win after injuries to Carolina's two rostered goalies. And here's TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer's discussion on the topic.
Bonus pick: Miss Mary Ann, an 84-year-old Ole Miss fan who rolled home a 94-foot putt during the Rebels' basketball loss to win a new NIssan Altima. Watch the highlight here, complete with the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" playing as the crowd goes nuts and the Ole Miss Land Shark celebrates with Mary Ann. It was everything that's great about sports.
Almost everyone at the Auburn-Tennessee basketball game. Rick Barnes and Co. gagged away a 17-point, second-half lead and all but doomed their NCAA tournament chances. Unless UT wins the SEC tournament, Barnes' streak of taking his team to 24 consecutive dances will end. Auburn can't really celebrate either, considering that with a raucous home crowd and Barnes' game mismanagement in the final 10 or so minutes, the Tigers were cooked. (As Chas pointed out last week, the Tigers are above average at best without Isaac Okoro.) And speaking of the crowd, news came out after the game that Auburn booted a student and has banned him from the Arena and AU games for heckling Santiago Vescovi by telling him "Go back to Uruguay; This is America." Man, seems rather benign compared to some of the heckling I've heard during the day — and way more polite than the language Coach K uses on referees. And I do know this: The headline calling it a "racist remark" seems like a stretch to me. Thoughts? (Also of note: I said almost everyone because if you had Auburn minus-6.5, the crazy comeback capped by two cosmetic free throws gave you a 73-66 cover. Good times. We're 34-35 on college picks. That's 57.6 percent, friends.)
Another weekend of the Houston sign-stealing story. The Houston Cheaters had their spring opener rained out. Seems fitting. News circled that some of the players are receiving death threats — as is Mike Fiers, who talked to The Athletic and blew the lid off this entire mess — are a sad example of so much that's so wrong with our society.
This daredevil. Somewhere Evel Knievel is shaking his head slowly in that disappointed dad way and mumbling something about kids today and their loud music and crazy hair. Mad Mike Hughes is now dead after — and yes, this sounds like a Darwinism-meets-SNL Weekend Update kind of headline — his homemade rocket crashed into the desert. Gang, I've done some bona fide CUH-razy things in my time. But never has the verb "ride" and the phrase "homemade rocket" been part of the thought process.
College hoops projected one-seeds. Yes, Baylor lost to No. 3 Kansas, but the three most consistent college basketball teams over the last two months all took an 'L' on Saturday. According to ESPN stats and info, "Entering yesterday, the longest active win streaks in D-I belonged to San Diego St (26), Baylor (23), and Gonzaga (19). All three lost." It was the first time in the last 50 seasons when three teams with winning streaks of at least 19 games lost on the same day.
Mark Cuban. The NBA will review the protest from the Dallas Mavericks and the team's owner. And hey, some are saying Cuban shows the passion of a real fan. He also shows the maturity of a real toddler. Twitter rants, conspiracy theories, long-time alleged institutional bias — he sounds like a middle schooler. Or an SEC football fan. Neither is a compliment here. And ask yourself if some random front-row fan came traipsing on the floor not once but twice to argue with the referees?
No, this is not about the college rite of passage in which we learn the names of the next round of Southern heroes who are going to thrill us and more than likely disappoint us on Saturdays six-plus months from now.
No, this is not about the underwear Olympics known as the NFL Combine, which will get a load of heckling, but still draw attention from those of us who are fans of the game in general and the draft in particular. I love the draft. You know this.
This is not even about the extended NFL labor negotiations between owners and the players association, which has been sent back into deal discussions after a weekend of details and discovery. We'll debate that more a little later this week, but as we said last week on Press Row, if you were part of the players' leadership, wouldn't the fact that the NFL owners were so gung ho to get this deal done raise some red flags for you?
(Side note: My spell check turned "gung ho" into either "hung ho" or "gang ho" and neither is acceptable. Side note, part II: "Gung Ho" was a wicked underrated early-1980s comedy with a young Michael Keaton and Long Duck Dong from "Sixteen Candles" and was directed by Ron Howard. Side note on the side note, part II: Michael Keaton has a wonderful catalog, wicked underrated in fact. Let's explore, I think Keaton has moved from comedy to drama every bit as well as Bill Murray and only trails some guy named Tom Hanks in that career transformation. Keaton had a brilliant run in the early 1980s with Gung Ho, Mr. Mom, Night Shift, and Johnny Dangerously. He became the rebooted Batman in 1989 — no, it's not as good as Christian Bale's, but Keaton was great — was excellent in The Paper, Jackie Brown, and other mid-career films, and recent has been in the critically acclaimed Spotlight and Birdman. That's an amazing 40 years, friends.)
Where were we? Yes, spring football.
I follow the XFL a little more than most, and want the league to succeed. Truly.
The all-important TV numbers will be available later, and staying close to Week 2's ratings and viewers will be the biggest heat check for Vince McMahon and Co.
But here are a couple of good things and a possible suggestion from a third party.
Good news: The crowds in the stadium have continued to grow each week, highlighted by more than 30,000 in the stands for the St. Louis win. Those numbers are pretty impressive. During Week 1, the four games drew a smidge less than 70,000; Week 2 had more than 76,000 in the four games; Week 3 over the last couple of days had just less than 82,000.
Bad news: Professional football in L.A. simply has not been embraced, be it the Chargers, the Rams and now the XFL's Wildcats. The City of Angels is the second biggest in the country with more than 3.9 million folks and fewer than 12,000 came for the Wildcats' home opener. Gang, if they played his games in a place big enough, here's betting that Bronny James' and Dwyane Wade's sons would draw close to that number.
Even better news: The XFL is starting to deliver stars. Truly. Start with Houston QB P.J. Walker, who certainly looks like he's one of the best 64 professional QBs taking breaths on this planet. (Seriously, ask Steelers fans if they would have rather had Mason Rudolph or that Duck fellow or Walker, who is athletic and talented.) Landry Jones looks the part of a Sunday-only QB, too. And there's no debating that 6-foot-8 tight end Donald Parham from Dallas will get an offer sooner rather than later.
Side note: While we are here, the XFL must embrace the transition of players who get the chance to go to the NFL. It will only help the profile of the league — in the eyes of fans as well as future prospective players — in the long run. Which brings us to the head-scratching move of the weekend when Johnny Manziel took to The Twitter after 1 a.m. Saturday morning asking XFL commissioner Oliver Luck for a contract.
Manziel's Tweet was "Oliver Luck If ya wanna boost your ratings to another level just send me the contract tomorrow and we're in there. Like I said YEARS ago . . . XFL2020 give the people what they want."
And then, in a really weird turn, Manziel deleted his whole Twitter account.
Hard to see a whole lot wrong with the Tweet on its face, and it's also hard to argue with Manziel's logic. Look, the New York and Tampa Bay QB situations are disasters, and could not be much worse if I was taking snaps. Nevermind a known star like Johnny Football, who would be the only Heisman winner in the league.
Finding headliners that don't make fans scratch their heads on "Why is he here?" should be a priority for the league moving forward.
As for how much farther the league will move forward, well, the TV numbers from Week 3 will be quite telling.
This and that
— Well, hello Newman. Yes, the classic Seinfeld line applies in terms of our XFL picks. Mr. Breakeven — 2-2 on teams, 2-2 on the totals — for a 4-4 week. Not sure if that was some hollow analysis on my end or if the guys in the desert are starting to move into a better place with tougher lines. (In truth, it may be some of each, because the totals were drastically lowered and that proved to be close to perfect for Vegas.) We're now 15-8 against the spread on XFL picks. That's still 65.2 percent against the spread
— Raise your hand if this makes you wonder why Bernie Sanders is even in the Democratic primary. You are not alone. This Tweet — from last Friday — from Bernie's account "I've got news for the Republican establishment. I've got news for the Democratic establishment. They can't stop us." No wonder Trump is hoping Bernie wins the Democratic nomination.
— Patrick Reed has been in the news a bunch of late, and mostly for allegations that he's a cheater on the course. He won Sunday in Mexico, and know this: If Reed becomes the guy that can block out that kind of negativity and truly gets into (Bleep) You Mode, dude us going to be hard to handle this year.
— Another way the NBA is poised for the a big finish is the continued fascination with and domination from Mr. Zion Williamson. The rookie continues to do eye-popping things, and his 28 points Sunday gave him eight straight games with at least 20. Only one other rookie has had a longer streak, and that was Carmelo Anthony, who had two nine-game streaks in his first NBA season.
— Speaking of Mary Ann, the merry Ole Miss fan and new car owner, here's a story of a Montana State student hitting a full-court heave and winning $11,111. Good times.
— Colorado hired Karl Dorrell, the former UCLA head coach, to replace Mel Tucker.
— You know the rules, when TFP college football wizard David Paschall writes about college football, we read and link to Paschall on college football. Here's local-star-turned-bigger-star Will Healy talking about coming to the FCA banquet and facing what Healy believes will be a top-20 UT Vols team in the season opener.
— Same goes for Weeds and college hoops, including women's college hoops. Here's Weeds saying that Katie Burrows could be the SoCon women's coach of the year, which would be quite the feat since the Mocs started 1-13, but stand 10-17 overall after a strong 9-4 conference run.
Lots to get to today.
Weekend winners and losers. Discuss.
Did you watch any XFL? Would that change if Johnny Manziel — or Tim Tebow — was in the league?
As for the actual day, Feb. 24, well, lots of of folks forget that the U.S. win over the Soviets was the semifinal and the Gold Medal win was 40 years ago today.
Steve Jobs would have been 65 today. Here's betting he would have had enough coin to retire.
Eddie Murray is 64 today.
Phil Knight is 82 today. He founded Nike. Man, some rich dudes born on this day, huh?
I believe Knight's Swoosh is on the Rushmore of wordless corporate logos (and maybe even on word slogans too with "Just Do It") but lets stay with logos.
Rushmore of corporate logos. Go.