Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz listens to one of his players speak during a news conference, Friday, June 12, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. The Iowa football team took a big step toward improving its lines of communication in the week since the program was hit with allegations of systemic racism, Ferentz and three of his players said Friday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Off the rails before we started

And we're off.

I had prepared a new mental approach, a Topic-free Tuesday, which was going to be an alliterative spin off LeBron's interweb smash "Taco Tuesday," which of course was originally in the Lego Movie, if not in the thousand of households around the country during the 1970s, which was the time when families going out to eat was like a once a week thing.

OK, so many side notes there:

Side note a) Are you surprised that LeBron's was not more widely accused of being racially insensitive. It was a small thing last fall, when Clay Travis used the role reversal argument that simply is not universally applicable as a transitive property of social situations. Here's Travis Tweet from late last year about LeBron's Taco Tuesday video posts that include LeBron rolling the Rs and doing a little Speedy Gonzalez impersonations: ""Here's social justice warrior LeBron James, who was offended by the word posse, pretending to be Mexican on Taco Tuesday. Can you imagine if a prominent white, black or Hispanic athlete pretended to be black while eating fried chicken?" Personally, I'm glad that did not become a thing — not because I am a LeBron fan (and I have called him out routinely for his shortcomings about the Hong Kong situation) — because we need fewer reasons to be angry than more. From all sides.

Side note b) Alliteration is underrated. So is assonance, which is the literature term of linking words that have similar vowel sounds together in a flowing sequence.

Side note c) The Lego Movie is excellent. Excellent. Wyld Style? Are you a DJ or something?

Side note d) Growing up did you have a rotation of meals that your family could expect? We did pot roast on most Sundays, and my dad's mother, who was a world-class cook, lived two doors down and did fried chicken almost every Monday.

Side note e) Man, the pandemic has thrown us back into my childhood levels of eating in. Other than a Friday night going to the pizzeria — what was your local favorite, non-chain pizza joint from your youth? Mine was a place off Austell Rd. called Tony's which edged a place called RJ's — man we ate at home or at the ballpark. And that's it.

Side note f) In a lot of ways the pandemic has thrown us back to those 'eat at home days' of my childhood. Ballpark, I'd say we eat out about 20 percent of what we did P.C. (pre-Corona) since we eat almost every lunch and most dinners at home these days.

Where were we? Oh yeah, this novel idea of Topic-free Tuesday. A day for non-heavy lifting in these discussions that harken back to the fun times of bad announcers, uniforms we like and college football 'issues' like paying players or recruiting violations.Remember when people would get really fired up about paying college players? Ah, the cute controversies of the pre-Corona. They grow meaningless so fast these days.


Well, maybe next week.

Because several San Francisco Giants, including manager Gabe Kapler, knelt during the National Anthem before an exhibition game against the A's on Monday night.

It drew a response from the Commander and Tweet, who predictably blasted the kneeling.

Let's cover the caveats and the basics, and try to weave our way down the lily-pad path of logic that all too often falls into the Ocean of Outrage on this issue:

> As long as it's not collectively bargained in terms of your workplace, anyone is free to do whatever they want during the National Anthem. I will always stand. That's my choice, and I understand the freedom of choice of others;

> That freedom, though, does not come with the freedom of acceptance. The freedom of choice comes with the end result of everyone else having the freedom to view those choices. And for the people who do not like the kneeling, I understand that freedom too. Yes, I know the root of the protest from Colin Kaepernick, and I know why he choose the Anthem, because it would push the most buttons and create the most conversation about the cause he was supporting;

> Now, though, as the country is embroiled in the conversation Kaepernick tried to jumpstart four years ago, is more kneeling a good thing? Is it a smart thing? Because if that is the sign of support, is standing for the anthem a sign of protest now? And the more questions that are raised, the more the anthem becomes about protesting rather than honoring the country? And if that's the case, then I am for doing away with the anthem before games to be honest. More on this in a moment;


> Everyone hears the announcers say, "Now, let's honor our military" before the anthem, right? Maybe there has been — especially in the days after 9/11, that added first responders to the honor preamble, or maybe they throw 'country' in there somewhere. And if first responders or even country for those who feel disenfranchised by America's past are in there, the protests are more understandable. But, and this is a but I have not seen discussed enough, because while Kaepernick and the kneelers who followed him have said over and over the protests are about police treatment of blacks. We can hear those intentions, but when the announcement before the anthem is to honor our military, it is also understandable how some can feel that kneeling against the military too?

So that leaves us headed back to the fields (hopefully, fingers crossed and looking over both shoulders for the Voldermort that is positive Corona tests that would derail all of Hogwarts that is our sports bubbles and plans) the discussion of the anthem will be a centerpiece story very shortly.

The conversations around us — again the very topic Kaepernick tried to move to the center of our social focus four years ago — will make kneeling commonplace, if I had to guess.

And unlike four years ago, if the majority is doing it, do you really call it a protest anymore, and that in my mind really changes the implications for the anthem. Not for the importance of finding ways to make Americans safer, especially in their dealings with law enforcement.If the majority of players and coaches — and eventually fans when, you know, we actually get tot return to ball parks — kneel, then we need to find another pregame tradition in my mind.Kaepernick maximized the moment of the anthem for the highest profile for his protest. That is true. It was also very shrewd.

But if the anthem now becomes a time for protest, let's figure out a different plan. Let's either do away with it. Maybe offer a moment of silence or reflection that includes the instructions of "Ladies and gentlemen, please take a moment and give pause for the ever-chasing, ever-evolving goals of equality in our country, for all out citizens or all races and genders" or something of that ilk. Then, after having a great game, tell the media what was on your mind during your moment of reflection.

Heck with social media, everyone has a platform. Share it there.

But as a country that needs to find as many ways possible to avoid controversy, and this one now feels no longer like selfless protesting to call attention to the cause as much as a cause to call attention to controversy and self.




Taking aim in Ames

Uh, gang, Kirk Ferentz is not out of the woods yet at Iowa.

Apparently the head coach knew of the racial bias in his program in 2018. Of course he did.

Let's see if we can follow the transitive property of truths in this flow chart.

Successful major college football and basketball coaches are control freaks. Kirk Ferentz is/was a successful major college football coach. Control freaks know almost everything that goes on in their organizations.

Soooooooooooooooo, who exactly is surprised that Ferentz knows the inner workings of his program? We'll wait.

This is made even worse of course because a detailed report of the 2018 issues in the Iowa program has now come to light. And worse still Ferentz acted like he was surprised of the racial mistreat allegations against his former strength coach.

Hmmmmmm. (Now would be the time that we need to remind everyone that if there's one person on staff the head coach talks the most with, in a lot of college situations, it's the strength coach.)

I don't know if we'll have a college football season.

I also don't know if Ferentz will coach another college football game.    


Tuesday in the kitchen

Summertime clearly moves cooking responsibilities outside to the grill. So the focus can move to better sides, and that effort has been buoyed by the CSA food share with Signal Mountain Farms.

Last week, we got a beautiful eggplant.

So here's what we did with it.
We sliced it, making about 20-or-so eggplant discs that ranged from a silver dollar to a large sand dollar. Each was about an an 1/8 of an inch thick or maybe a smidge more.

We treated the eggplant slices with kosher salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix together.

Depending on your tastes and the tastes of your family, you can follow either of these paths. I prefer the spicy avenue but my kids and my wife do not share my love of kick.
So traditional treatment: Breading is breadcrumbs, quality grated parmesan cheese (Spy, go to the refrigerator section, not the Kraft silo in the spaghetti aisle), and a teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Crack two eggs — I use egg whites only because the yolk can dominate tastes — and dip the eggplant slices into the eggs and coat both sides with the breading.Treatment with a little more kick: Add crushed red pepper to the breading concoction rather than the Italian seasoning. I use a cup (or more if needed) of buttermilk with a heavy dose of hot sauce. Coat and bread each side.Place on sprayed aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Cook at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant over and cook for five more minutes. Check on them and turn off the oven so they do not burn. But let them sit in the oven, because the first round of these I served as appetizers with a side of marinara.
There's a second round, you may be wondering? Yes, what is left, wrap in foil and refrigerate. I then recrisp them — a griddle worked well, I bet a cast iron skillet would be aces too — and serve them as a side of eggplant chips with a zippy dipping sauce that is basically ranch and hot sauce mixed evenly.



This and that

— The NBA tested more than 340 players in its recent round of corona checks. Zero players tested positive, which is great news. Apparently it is the same number of NBA players who have said anything about the human rights and equality efforts in Hong Kong.

— The Washington Nationals announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will deliver the first pitch Thursday when the MLB season opens. Discuss. Somehow Dr. Fauci has become a controversial figure, which makes it official that anyone in the public space this side of David Paschall and Dave Flessner will at some point become controversial, no?

— Mark and Patricia, the St. Louis couple who became the faces of white fear and chastised across social media for pulling guns as protests reached the streets outside of their home, have been charged with a felony. Egad.

— California has moved high school football back to the winter. So there's that. Georgia is moving games back into September. Tennessee is set to decide Wednesday. Maybe? Man, of all the organizations for the TSSAA to use as an example, here's a nod that the NCAA was a poor choice. Here's TFP sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis on the upcoming TSSAA meeting this week. Hey, rules are rules.

— Speaking of rules, here's TFP college football expert David Paschall on a UGA DB entering the transfer portal. So there's that.

— The Braves have removed the "Chop On" sign outside of Truist Park. No word yet though on the team's stance on the actual chop from fans. Man, 2020 sucks.

— Bob Costas is headed to CNN. I hope he does great journalism there. I enjoy his work. He's arguably right there with Al Michaels for the most-polished and best all-around sports broadcaster of my lifetime.


Today's question

True or false. It's Tuesday. And there are a lot of them.

True or false, Dr. Fauci will throw a strike in his ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's Yankees-Nats game.

True or false, you stand for the National Anthem? True or false, you stand for the National Anthem at home?

True or false, the St. Louis couple who pulled guns but never left their private property as the protestors passed their home should be charged with a felony.

True or false, the Chop is dead for Braves fans.

As for today, July 21, well, it was 51 years ago today that Neil and Buzz walked on the moon.

Robin Williams would have been 69 today. Don Knotts would have been 96.

On this day 95 years ago John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in Dayton and fined $100.

Rushmore of 'monkey' and be creative — and kind. Go and I need mailbag questions a little earlier this week.