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FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during baseball owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Manfred tells The Associated Press that the commissioner's office, teams and the players' association "owe it to our fans to be better than we've been the last three months." (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Reason to smile

Baseball is back. Now what?

There are so many great storylines, right?

The Dodgers and Yankees being the favorites. The great young players from Trout to Arenado to Acuña to Betts to the Yankees sluggers. The great power arms from Scherzer to Cole to Verlander to Bueller to deGrom.

The situations will be surreal. How much so? Well, what happens if Clayton Kershaw calls back the echoes of his heyday, is perfect through nine in a 0-0 game, but the magical double starts extra innings and Kershaw drudges back to the mound and gets a ground ball to second, a fly ball to center and a K. The Dodgers go in order in the bottom of the 10th and Kershaw throws a 10-inning perfect game.And loses.

And that's not the craziest math out there.

Try this one: If a team gets swept in back-to-back three-game series — not a huge deal in normal times — and lost one more game on either side that seven-game slide would be comparable to a 19-game losing streak in a normal season. And that friends is a huge deal. For comparison, according to Jayson Stark's research, every team that had a 19-game losing streak in a normal season finished at least 34.5 games out of first.

And finally, you have to wonder how loud an outraged manager is going to have to yell to get tossed, because it's going to be frowned upon to get into a heated argument with the umps in the age of social distancing, no? Somewhere Bobby Cox is sad.

The questions far outnumber the answers, and that's OK, because the unknown can be fun.

Here's hoping they can navigate the details of the safety concerns. Because for all the angst and the uproar about the owners and the players and the confusion and controversy, the thought of baseball returning makes me happy.

And in this day and time, anything that makes any of us happy has to be a good thing, right?

 

Today's racial discussion

For the foreseeable future, days that end in 'y' around here will likely have some topics that center on racial issues. Most of these are connected to sports. Some are not. All are connected to our country and our divide.

First, the next chapter from Talladega and the allegations of #FakeNoose. The fallout continues, and to be honest, it's perplexing. The outrage against NASCAR in general and Bubba Wallace in general remains puzzling to me since in the big picture of things, this was the best possible outcome for both sides right?

Yet, we're still pointing fingers. With more details in the light, here's the series of events: Black crew member of Wallace's team finds the noose tied to the end of the rope on the garage door; said crew member, according to Wallace, researches the knot and confirms with another crew member that yes, it's a noose; they report it to NASCAR; (Bleep) hits the fan; we learn that the noose has been there since at least last October.

But the Smollett accusations and the conspiracy theories and claims of manipulation or NASCAR overplaying the noose do knot hold water. (See what I did there Spy?)

Point A) The Smollett stuff is so far-reaching and silly, it actually got Curt Schilling off Twitter, which is a collateral benefit I suppose;

Point B) Who would this conspiracy benefit and maybe more importantly, how would it benefit them?

Point C) If manipulation of the media or playing the situation was going to happen, why would you not truly maximize the end and find a scapegoat and ban them for life or send them to jail or charge them with a hate crime. If NASCAR were to manufacture something of this magnitude, would they possibly magnify something with this kind of conclusion?

Now please remember that it was a noose, in the stall of the one black driver on NASCAR's highest level, in the heart of Alabama, in the days following said black driver requesting that NASCAR remove the Confederate flag. The noose — even if it was there for months and randomly in Wallace's stall — is still a deal, gang.  

Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, and again, I wonder how that is outraging anyone. As a Southern, conservative, I am relieved by this. Again, this is the best possible outcome.

And a lot of that outrage is the ongoing fight between CNN and Fox and their legions of converts. And that's a shame, because the spin doctors and charlatans and the entertainers (notice I did not say news people or broadcasters) from Don Lemon to Tucker Carlson are pulling at the frays of our nation's fabric for the short-term ratings and rewards. Please remember this friends: The Carlsons and the Lemons and the rest need the divide and the outrage. They do not report. They enflame. For those who quote either exclusively, well, you only have, at best, half the facts — at most.
 

 

In other racial news

In other racial issues, this one is interesting to me in terms of the reaction and the tug of war. Jenny Slate used to voice a black character in the cartoon "Big Mouth." Slate is white and stepped down for the role because "Black characters should be played by Black people."

This one is cloudy for me. Shouldn't the best actors get the job, be it leading roles, supporting ones or even voice overs?

James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman have two of the most iconic voices of all time and any executive who has a voice-over role would love to have either of those dudes — if they could afford them mind you — in almost any role. Regardless of color.

And there are dozens of great and memorable voice roles played by someone not of the characters color — in both directions — or even someone of the same gender, so should we recast Bart Simpson or any of the others.

As for one final racial topic that intrigued me this morning, let's go to Jackson, Mississippi.

Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach are part of a group headed to the capitol to lobby for changes to the state flag.

Yes, most folks understand the reasons that the flag needs to be changed and the Confederate flag in the upper left corner needs to be removed. And if you're wondering "Well, Jay you (Bleeping) liberal mainstream media hack, what's net? Are they going to come into my home and take art from my wall?"

First, if you think I'm part of the mainstream liberal media, well, tell Tucker Carlson I said hello. Second, I understand the questions of "Where is the line?" and "What will be the next target?" and wrestle with them in terms of history and art and heritage.

But friends, we must be better as a society than to draw that line on the (Bleeping) Confederate flag. We have to be.

And make no mistake that there are clear personal motivations for Kiffin and Leach, who came under fire for a Tweet that included a noose earlier this year, as each needs to recruit Black players from around the country. And if you think other programs in the recruiting process would not mention the Confederate flag in corner, well, I've got some ocean front property in Iowa that you can get for a good price.

Big race topics? Must be a day that ends in y, right?

This and that

— Speaking of race topics, well, here on Yahoo.com is the site's music editor asking if it's time to cancel the national anthem because of Francis Scott Key's history in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I wish I was kidding. Truly I do.

— Vince Carter retired officially. Man, what an unfortunate end to an amazing career and one of the best dunkers who ever drew a breath. Carter played in four decades — he started in the NBA in 1998-99 — and finished his career 19th in career points. (Side note: Carter passed Alex English earlier this season. Man, Alex English was such a great offensive player. Wicked underrated.)

— The NFL has cancelled the Hall of Fame preseason game and reportedly has bagged the induction ceremony scheduled for later this summer.
 

— Speaking of baseball, here's a replay of our interview with local baseball legend and longtime MLB pitcher and coach Rick Honeycutt on Wednesday. And yes, we caught him coming off the golf course after he carded a 74.


— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Auburn's Kick Six win. What a finish. More on this in a moment.

— More rules, here's Hargis on the Best of Preps coach of the year finalists. And remember the Best of Preps virtual banquet tonight at timesfreepress.com. (Which I wrote about on A2 today.)

— Elsewhere in today's TFP is this excellent story from Sarah Grace Taylor from Wednesday's county commission meeting and the outrage after Hamilton County Sheriff deputies beat a subdued black man. Couple of big-picture thoughts here: First, surprised this has not become more of a national story, considering the climate and the quotes from suspect/victim Reginald Arrington Jr. Second, the budget was passed Wednesday? For real? Man, amid the social issues and the health issues, I had no idea that the budget was crafted and ready to go.

 

Today's questions

Did anyone watch the ESPN discussion on race last night? If so, please share your thoughts.

As for a topic Thursday discussion, if you had to pick a college football game that did not involve your personal favorite team, the Kick Six game is the best regular-season game in college football history no? Discuss.

While we are here, mailbag entries anyone? Fire away. Speaking of mailbags, saw an interesting question on The Athletic site for college football writer Andy Staples that wondered how many coaches have more job security than Mark Stoops. I will need to ask Paschall that one on Press Row today, because this side of Saban, you could argue that Stoops has as much security as anyone, reigning national champ Ed Orgeron included.
As for today, June 25, let's review.

Well, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull waxed Custer on this day in 1876.

On this day in in 1984, Purple Rain was released. That's on my personal Rushmore of best albums ever made. (Cue the old rock-n-roll guys' outrage in 5, 4, 3, 2)

George Michael would have 57 today.

The fork was introduced on this day in 1630. So there's that.

Michael Jackson died on this day in 2009. As did Farrah Fawcett. And, in 1876, so did Custer.

Rushmore of musical 'rain' and be creative. (And remember the mailbag.)

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