Oh, dang you, 2020
It's no secret that 2020 is beyond imagination in every fashion. Pandemic. Protests. Panic. Possibly no college football.
How crazy, well, in terms of almost all aspects of sports and society, NASCAR has been out front in terms of innovation, creation, implementation and compassion. Read that sentence again, and is that quite possibly the most telling way to describe the lengths of crazy that the first 197 days of this year have been.
(Side note: NASCAR welcomed 20,000 fans into the all-star race at Bristol last night, and by almost every report, it went off without a hitch. Watching the end of it on TV, it felt more normal than just about anything I've watched since early March. And you have to believe that every commissioner from every league — from SoCon chief to Goodell — put a call into NASCAR this morning asking a million questions about protocols and procedures. Man, War NASCAR.)
All that said, we can still call yesterday a wild bleepin' Wednesday, even for 2020 standards.
There was Nick Cannon simultaneously apologized twice while doubling down on his anti-Semitic remarks and, after being fired by ViacomCBS. Cannon, who kept his job with "The Masked Singer," demanded an apology from ViacomCBS and that the corporation give him the rights and trademarks to the 'Wild 'N Out.' OK, first, how the Masked Singer became a thing, I will never know. Second, yeah, conglomerates do not become conglomerates by 'giving' anything away, Nick. (Side note: A good look at all the comments Cannon made on the since-deleted podcast can be found in this Yahoo! story.)
Cannon Tweeted that he was "disappointed that Viacom does not understand or respect the power of the Black community." Say what? He continued to blame Viacom by writing ViacomCBS was "now on the wrong side of history. I don't blame any individual, I blame the oppressive and racist infrastructure."
It's like the most 2020ish thing ever for a person as part of his or her rationale in explaining his or her stereotypical hate speech against another group to blame racism, right? So let me get this straight, the translation to that is, "My bigoted hatred is OK because of the bigoted hatred of others." OK. Check, please. (Side question: Can you ask for your check at a restaurant without doing the hand-signaling thing of writing on your other hand? I don't think so. I believe it's somewhere between Pavlovian and the involuntary fact that you cannot sneeze with your eyes open.)
(And while we're here in a completely unbelievable 2020, I'll just put the fact that Fox is the more tolerant and open employer in this scenario over here for now. Oh my.)Cannon's rant and actions got supported by Dwyane Wade on Twitter, and then Wade to clarify and apologize for his since-deleted Tweet of "@NickCannon We are with you (Black fist emoji) Keep leading!" Oh, D-Wade, say it ain't so.
Wade's explanations to the more than 2,000 comments in less than two hours did little to clarify exactly what Wade's intent was.
Wade posted "I want to clarify my now deleted tweet. I was not supporting or condoning what Nick Cannon specifically said, but I had expressed my support of him owning the content and brand he helped create." And then, "I was too quick to respond without being fully informed about his hurtful anti-Semitic remarks. As you all know I have ZERO tolerance for any hate speech!" (Unless of course, Nick does it, then cool, right D-Wade?)
Then reports surfaced that Chuck Woolery, who less than a week ago pushed all his chips in that Corona was a fraud, went Twitter dark after reports surfaced that his son got the Corona. Of course, that could have been part of the world-wide hacking of some of the most well-known Twitter accounts around the world, because, well, 2020.
And then, because, again, it's 2020, Dan Snyder told Cannon and D-Wade and the Twitter hackers to hold his beer.
Vague reports have been floated over the last few days, but late Wednesday night there was a growing scandal within the organization, which has parted ways with director of pro personal and assistant director of pro personal and had its long-time announcer Larry Michael 'retire' this week.
(Side question: We all assumed that the corporate partners who were looking to end ties and the minority owners looking to sell their shares was because of the name, right? What if it's something way more offensive than that? Side question on the side question: In this time of social uncertainty, is there any term less clear than minority owner describing a billionaire white guy like Fred Smith of FedEx?)
Sure, the Twitter world is a dangerous place and almost an impossible one to find facts, but the allegations have been referred to by numerous reporters in D.C. and mentioned in the New York Post on Wednesday night.
So, we've got 168 days left of 2020, right? Hurry up for Pete's sake.
Lots of big money was tossed around the NFL on Wednesday as teams had to either extend star players on franchise tags by 4 p.m. Let's review some of the biggest names now that we have numbers and details.
> Kansas City signed defensive tackle Chris Jones to a monster, four-year, $85 million deal.
Translation: The Chiefs lured back their most important player (Patrick Mahomes) on a back-loaded deal that allowed them to keep the championship window open by signing their most disruptive defensive player (Jones). The Chiefs have moved the pieces around after a Super Bowl win in a very impressive fashion. In fact, the Chiefs have to be viewed as the Super Bowl favorites with 20 of 22 starters back and the addition of draft-day steal Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the former LSU running back. And remember the entire coaching staff returns, and that lack of turnover and that high level of familiarity will be even more critical in an NFL season with pandemic-limited preseason preparation.
> Cleveland signed defensive end Myles Garrett to a five-year, $125 million contract.
Translation: There are a few, but man a $100 million guaranteed seems like a huge chunk of a hard salary cap, no? In fact, Garrett is now the highest paid NFL player who does not take snaps. Think about that. Dude is awesome for sure, but is he the most valuable player in the league who is not a QB? Side note: Remember when Garrett swinging his helmet was all anyone could talk about in the sports world for a week, and Garrett alleged that mason Rudolph called him the N-word. Oh, simpler times and longing for the good ol' days. I think Cleveland has a slew of talented pieces, but deals like this one make it a clear win-now setting, and that's a tough position in a division with the Ravens, a conference with the Chiefs and a league with 10 really good teams with better QBs than Baker Mayfield.
> Tennessee signed Derrick Henry to a four-year, $50 million deal.
Translation: There are so many people calling this a win-win, which makes me think that a win-win in contract terms is actually a win for the team, no? Derrick Henry had the best season of his career and led the NFL in rushing last year. There is value in that for sure. Henry is now the fifth-highest paid running back in the NFL. Is a top-five running back? I do not think so because he is a virtual ghost in the passing game. To that end, Henry was not on the field for most of the second half of the Titans' season-ending playoff loss to the Chiefs in the AFC title game. Is anyone worth being paid top-five-at-their-position money if they can't be on the field in defining moments like that? I'm not sure.
Hey I get it about Henry, especially since, who else on that team gets fans excited. Part of the Henry deal certainly is about fan approval and even team identity, don't you think?
But this side of a Barkley or a McCaffery, I'm not sure I extend any running back anymore. Truly.
(Side note: If you are wondering about all the salary comparisons is because value in the modern NFL is about worth-at-position, value of said position and the personal cost of any extended contract is every bit as much as payment for performance, if that makes sense.)
That's part of the reason that Dak Prescott did not get an extension, in my opinion. Because if you were the Cowboys GM — congrats on being Jerry Jones, it looks like a good life, you have to know the answers to a) do you think Dak is a top-five or top-seven QB, b) do you want Dak handing off to a rookie RB and throwing to Michael Gallup or would you be OK with Andy Dalton handing it to Zeke and throwing it to Amari Cooper?
More college overhaul
I believe a lot of us have come to grips with the perilous and uncertain future that college sports at all levels face at this moment.
Without a football season, there are a lot of other sports that could face potential elimination. Truly.
The divides and levels will only be magnified as the money becomes more scarce in years to come. And that's not even close to covering the multitude of things we don't know.
But this we do know: Even if everything was 100 percent the same on this day as it was 366 days ago — Leap Year, Spy — there is a monster change afoot for college hoops happening all around us.
Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2021 class has announced he is skipping college basketball for the G-League and the $500,000 (or a smidge more than Zion Williamson got to go to Duke allegedly).
Kuminga is the fourth five-star prospect in the last two recruiting cycles to pick the professional minor league path to the pros. He assuredly will not be the last.
This and that
— It was five years ago today that our city joined the lousy list of places impacted by terrorism. Feels like it was yesterday in some ways, and I, like many of you certainly do too, remember exactly where I was when it happened — sitting next to David Paschall and Wells Guthrie on Press Row at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. In other ways, it feels like it was two decades ago too. In the big picture perspective, two very critical questions popped into my brain this morning as I thought back to those attacks: First, will it take some national attack like 9/11 to bring us together again? Which then made me ponder, if 9/11 happened today, are we so divided that we would not respond? The overlap of protests and pandemic make me doubt it. And it makes me sad. Bleep off 2020.
— Well, there's this. Asheville, N.C. city council has voted to approve reparations for past acts to its black community. Oh my. My ears are open, gang, as we try to find a better way to live respectfully with people of all stripes. I'm not on board with this one though. Not even close.
— You know the rules. When TFP college football expert David Paschall writes about college football, we read and link Paschall's prose on college football. Here is an interesting season preview that in some ways is a Ghostbusters-level crossing of the streams of college football knowledge in which Paschall, the SEC historian who can tell you who was at quarterback for Vandy in 1982 that beat Florida (Whit Taylor), interviews Phil Steele, the expert magazine previewer who assuredly can tell you who is the back-up QB in Boise, Idaho (Chase Cord). And yes, I had to look those up. Man, we need college football to happen. Like a lot.
— Because we are running out of things in sports, from "lists" to "best ofs" to even the Rushmores I've been pitching out there every weekday for close to a decade, here comes another labor intensive argument starter that are crafted by sports writers with way, Way, WAY too much time on our hands. This CBSsports.com writer crafts the all-time Packers' 53-man roster, which is some detailed work. Part of the story is Green Bay's three-man depth chart at QB — Starr, Favre and Rodgers — and a) who would start (Rodgers) and b) would the Packers have the greatest three-QB depth chart at the most important position in sports? Discuss.
— That of course got my brain going (zip it Spy) and made me wonder, a) which power five football program has the best three-QB depth chart all-time, and b) which NFL team would have the best all-time 53-man roster?
— As we mentioned NASCAR's star continued to shine in 2020 with the All-Star race last night. Chase Elliott won. The neon lights under the cars were kind of blah — not head-turning nor stomach-churning, just kind of "Oh, so there's that." The moved numbers looked awkward, in my opinion. The change to Bristol was refreshing rather than the every-year presence at Charlotte. And the sight of fans in the stands made me smile.
Have you sent a mailbag question? If not why not?
There are questions sprinkled throughout, but we can recalibrate them here:
Is Derrick Henry a top-five RB in the NFL?
Is Dak Prescott a top-seven QB in the NFL?
Who had NASCAR as the leading innovator in execution and social expression in the first half of 2020? Also, if I offered Bubba Wallace as SI sportsman of the year right now, are you taking Bubba or the field?
Do you remember where you were on July 16, 2015?
As for other happenings on this day, well, let's review.
Will Ferrell is 53 today. Will Ferrell, overrated, underrated or properly rated?
Corey Feldman is 49 today. That's a hard 49 years, no?
Jimmy Johnson is 77 years old today. With that, we'll ask for a Rushmore of the best football coaches who had success in college and the NFL. Go. (And remember the mailbag.)