NASCAR taking its shot

NASCAR clearly made a business play by, pardon the pun, racing back into action.

It's a layered decision that includes the realization that the old normal was not going well for NASCAR, it's core fan base is neck-deep in the "Re-open now" crowd, and it's revenue stream of sponsorships dollars and TV deals create the biggest COVID sports hole.

That last part is especially important, because while the other professional sports teams are desperate to find ways to get as many fans as possible in the stands, NASCAR's team owners have little financial interest in ticket sales.

That goes to track owners, so the owners and operators of the track are losing money right now without fans, but the race teams were getting crushed without the revenue streams of sponsorships and TV.

So the decision to, again, sorry, race back to racing, made all the sense in the world.And the early results have been impressive.

> Two races in the last four days was capped with Denny Hamlin winning last night in Darlington, and the end of last night with the anger between Chase Elliott and an actual apology from renowned bad-boy Kyle Busch made for great theater;  

> TV numbers have been strong — Sunday was the most-watched non-Daytona 500 race in at least three years;

> The racing has been good. Granted I watched way more Sunday than I did last night, but the unknowns and the action has been enjoyable;

> The sports vacuum has allowed an overflow of news coverage for NASCAR, but recent comparison. How much? Well, there were multiple segments on Golic or Wingo on the race this morning and, when was the last time we wrote this much about NASCAR? We'll wait;

> And like most every sport, here's hoping — and betting — that NASCAR is reviewing these Corona-related changes and seeing what makes sense to become permanent in whatever our new normal looks like.

I like the idea of shorter races for the fan-viewing experience. It doesn't have to be universal but the occasional short race would not be a terrible thing.I like the idea of mid-week racing. Recognize your station in the sports landscape, and a mid-week Wednesday race will catch more attention than going toe-to-toe with a golf major or an NFL Sunday.


Taking a cue from Paschall

OK, you know the rules. TFP college football expert David Paschall has all-but-completed a three-week tour of the best football players at Alabama, Georgia and, with today's unveiling of Peyton Manning as the No. 2 player in Vols history, Tennessee.

It's an inspiring endeavor, and Paschall's credentials give it credence. (Can't speak for Clearwater or Revival, but we can assume.) If you missed any of the rankings, well, here Paschall's story page. You can review them all here.

Last week, we asked if any SEC school had a bigger divide between 1 and 2 in their individual rankings as Georgie did with Herschel and everyone else.

Today's clarity with Manning being 2 — and the all-but-certain assumption that Reggie White is 1 — begs a couple of questions:

First, does Tennessee have the best 1-2 in SEC history? Remember, these rankings were on college players only. Discuss.

It also got me thinking — yes, Spy, that's a dangerous proposition — about what the top-five or even a top-10 of the best NFL players who played in the SEC would look like.

Because, I think Peyton and Reggie are fighting for 1-2 on that list too. Then I'd go with a couple of Alabama guys in Derrick Thomas and John Hannah. Then maybe Emmitt Smith.

Who wants to play along? Heck, we'll even accept nominations for the best NFL career from your favorite SEC school. Go.


NCAA acts with relative inactivity

OK, the NCAA may actually be the last leadership body involved at any level of athletics that still uses the term 'voluntary' in its actual form.

C'mon, if Nick Saban said work outs at T-Town were 'voluntary' do you think he is giving his players a choice? No, me neither.

So, the NCAA has allowed athletes to return 'voluntary' to campus and begin workouts.

To be fair, it was the rare insightful move for the NCAA considering that if it made a stand either way and a Power Five snubbed its conference schnoz toward Indianapolis, well, the NCAA was going to lose either way.

And, as Chas noted, the NCAA also tabled the issue of allowing the transfer rule that allows all athletes one free, immediately eligible transfer.

I am in strong support of that rule out of general fairness, in terms of personnel within any program (coaches, managers, support staff can leave and are immediately eligible to work/compete), across college athletics (there are a slew of NCAA sports that already allow free transfers) and college in general (think a band student or a chemistry ace worries about this?).

But, in this instance, tabling an issue heading into a total tsunami of unknown issues in terms of the college sports landscape in the face of The Corona makes a lot of sense.

There could be conferences playing while others aren't. There could be states playing while others aren't. The unknowns are limitless.

And to be fair to the NCAA, the perceptions of college sports leadership on all levels spending time on just about anything other than trying to figure out how all levels of college sports can survive and advance in this time would feel awkward.



This and that

— OK, just saw this and this may get a little deep for a 'This and That' entry. We have discussed before that college football is arguably the most-fan-needy sport of all the high-profile sports. The reasons are clear and numerous. Here's Gene Smith, AD of THE Ohio State, saying that THE Horseshoe could figure out a way to get 20,000 fans into THE games of THE Buckeyes. I understand the details and need for fans for college sports, but man there are no clear answers on this thing.

— Side question on a heavy start to 'This and That' on a Thursday: We have asked frequently that when sports get going again, what's the number of contracted Corona cases that sports are willing to accept before shutting down? And as tough as that question is, how about this mind-bender: In terms of fans, almost every conversation leads to the numbers of tests available and the eventual end statement of "No or limited fans until there's a vaccine." Now comes news that a recent survey from Yahoo and reveals that 1 in 5 will NOT take a Corona vaccine and almost half are not sure if they would take it. Dear Buckets, if the final answer is "Not until we get a vaccine" but 20 percent will not take a vaccine and close to half are unsure whether they will, then what the bleep, people? My head hurts.

— Here's UTC volleyball coach Travis Filar on Press Row on Wednesday. Good dude and a friend of the show.

— Hey, you know the rules. When TFP sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis writes on prep sports, we read and link Hargis on prep sports. Here's a well-done feature on a local athlete.

— Love this idea. In the match between Tiger and Peyton vs. Phil and Brady, the fifth hole will be a one-club hole for Tiger and Phil, which means they can chose any club from their bag and use that single club from tee to hole-out on No. 5. I'm all here for this and any other tweaks they can add. How about the Shotgun Seventh, where after the tee shot each competitor shotguns a beer and the shortest drive of the two groups (shorter pro drive and shorter QB drive) has to take a shot. A shot of the other team's choice. Who doesn't want to watch Tom Brady throw up at the turn?  

— We are on a razor's edge as a society, dontcha' think? Here are four men straight going at it at a Florida Home Depot. A fight this emotion has to be caused by, what, family, fear, friends, finances? Nope. It was caused by paint.

— Today's A2 column from a fat-faced fella.


Today's questions

Hey, how about some true or false on a Thursday? I say true.

True or false, if there had been no social-distancing rules Wednesday night at Darlington, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch would have dropped gloves.

True or false, there will be a fight between NASCAR drivers despite the social-distancing requirements.

True or false you concur with Paschall that Reggie White is the No. 1 players in UT football history. (All apologies to Rick Clausen, who was left off the list because, well, Paschall clearly doesn't appreciate the contributions of the entire Clausen clan.)

As for today, May 21, well, let's review.

On this day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh finished the first solo air crossing of the Atlantic. Five years later on this day, Amelia Earhart becomes the first female to cross the Atlantic in a solo flight. (Side note: Uh, Charles Lindberg is on the list of folks who would not have a lot of fun in the social media age.)

Forty years ago, The Empire Strikes Back was released across the U.S on this day.

I think we have done the Rushmore of sequels.

Thirty years ago today, the finale of Newhart aired. We have been very complimentary of that finale around these parts recently.

On this day, Ralph Sampson hit a spinning buzzer beater downed the Showtime Lakers and sent the Rockets to the 1986 Finals, where they got beat by the Celtics.
Rushmore of NBA buzzer beaters. Go, and remember the mailbag.