Happy Memorial Day friends. For those that served, many thanks. For those that had family serve, also many thanks.
We have done this morning conversation every workday since late October 2010, so it's not like we're going to stop now. Far too many folks gave far too much for the greatness of the First Amendment (and the rest of the band of merry amendments too) to not exercise it.
But on holidays, we normally try to move in, move out as quickly as possible. Deal? Deal.
From the sun-splashed satellite office off the glorious banks of Lake Martin, Alabama, let's do this.
NASCAR. We all knew the issues and struggles NASCAR faced before the shutdown. And with less money to spend — for fans and sponsors — those issues are not going anywhere in the big picture. But, NASCAR continues to make the most of its return in this all-sucking sports vacuum. Sunday night's race at Charlotte featured a slew of crazy, fan-friendly turns, and I'm sure the ratings will reflect that. Brad Keselowski took home the checkered in a wild and fun Coca-Cola 600. (Rest easy Spy, that's the name of the race, not my goal for Memorial Day weekend.)
Speaking of racing, Kyle Larson got a win Saturday night in the World of Outlas race in Missouri. Larson is the former NASCAR driver who was fired for saying the N-bomb during a NASCAR iRace earlier this spring. The religious way to wash away human sins is to be dipped in the water and ask forgiveness. The sports way to wash away human sins is to be dipped in the champagne of victory lane (again and again).
Eli Manning joining Twitter makes us all winners. From his zingers to Tom Brady to his Caddyshack quotes during The Match, Eli on Twitter is a top-five new happening in these Corona-domianted times.
The Kansas Chiefs. If the proposed new rule change of fourth-and-15 instead of an onside kick takes place, it means two things: Sooner rather than later, the kickoff will be killed; secondly, the Kansas City Chiefs should go for it every time as long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy and on the field.
Lance Armstrong is a lying jack wagon. who looks to have the personal redeemable qualities of an STD. Yes, I know his Live Strong Foundation raised hundreds of millions in its fight for cancer, and that may alter the opinion of folks who want to have their opinions altered about the greatest American cyclist ever. And that's fine. But watching the first two hours of the Lance 30-for-30, and I feel pretty certain Lance raised that money for the betterment of Lance. Period. Want an example? One of his more interesting quotes was about when he was at the heights of his fame, he was on the level of a LeBron or Michael Phelps and he said "and I don't miss it." Uh, if you were not coveting that level of celebrity then why did you lie through your teeth about cheating for years to protect that status?
Ryan Leaf. Hey, innocent until proven guilty of course, but after being arrested on domestic battery charges, this likely is the end of the public road for Leaf. Yes, the charges are misdemeanors, but for a guy like Leaf, whose background is more checkered than both end zones in Neyland, it's likely a career ender. What's the saying, 12 strikes and you're out?
Leaders of the NBA and the MLB — owners and players. Sometimes, the simplest play is the smartest play. Heck, a lot of times the obvious choice is the perfect choice. Consider what was at stake for the players and the owners over the last 10 days: Any form of return — with or without fans — would have been EEEE-normous. Just look at what NASCAR and The Match will do this weekend. But those sports are going to be pushed back into late July because of labor issues and negotiations. And both sides deserve equal amounts of criticism, considering even with my Auburn education, I believe the smart play for anyone on either side would be to raise his or her hand, clear his or her throat and offer, "Uh gang, let's agree that this is a historic, unprecedented time, and that any solution we come up with for this year is linear 2020 plan and non-binding moving forward. We owe to the fans and the country and our business partners to try to figure this out as quickly and safely as possible. If we are perceived as preventing the return of sports because of labor time and prorated salaries and bargaining power, then we will lose twice and some fans may never come back. Think about this people: There will be Little League baseball played before MLB friends. Yeah, that's no es bueno."
The Match — The perfection
This side of the Masters and that early-morning British Open dual between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson a few years ago, I watched more of The Match on Sunday than any other single-golf telecast in my life.
Maybe it was my live-sports starvation. Hey, I've watched way more NASCAR in the last two weeks than I did in the previous two years.
Maybe but was because of the likable cast of characters. Heck, even Tom Brady came off as charming for most of the event. (Side note: When we were talking about Jordan's undeniable and unsatisfiable will to win and singular focus in that pursuit, Tiger is the only one close. Everyone else had some nerves and had some jokes. I'm more convinced this morning that after The Match on Sunday, Tiger is a golf robot, and his injuries were fixed with foreign hinges, junkyard parts and WD-40. Maybe some ball bearings... It's all ball bearings nowadays.)
Maybe it was the full access we got that we did not get in the first round of The Match when Phil beat Tiger a couple of years ago. It was entertaining and endearing. Be it the comedy or the strategery or even just the workings of thinking for teammates, that kind of access was awesome.
Maybe it was the effort from all involved, be it the players who toughed out driving rain without as much of a single complaint (despite some obvious effects on their games, especially from the quarterbacks), the commentators who seemed glib and prepared without seeming rehearsed, the camera crew which excelled in the most difficult of situations, or even the production team members who were not there, like TNT Sports lead anchor Ernie Johnson, who delivered this poignant essay about his decision to skip this event because of his seriously ill and breathing-challenged son. (If you have not seen it, watch it. But do it alone. It will get dusty. Shut up. I'm not crying, you're crying.) Maybe it was some of all of that, and that's normally the best choice.
But watching Tiger make routine greatness look routine and Mickelson embracing the big moment with even bigger swashbuckling swings of his blade and seeing Brady and Manning — two of the coolest, strongest and most successful leaders in modern team sports history — expose their nerves and their realization that they were the weaker links was great theater.
Mix in Chuck Barkley firing shots at everyone — be it chastising Brady's unimaginably bad start, to riding former Alabama golfer Justin Thomas for everything from bullying Chuck because of his weight to being proud of all the Tide students who got their GEDs — to the super-charged golf carts that seriously looked street-speed-legal and the real-life "What's going to happen next" drama that we have so desperately missed in this time, and The Match was the best thing I've watched since the college basketball conference tournaments were cancelled.
And like the difference between the golf games of the PGA legends and the NFL Hall of Famers, that distance is not close.
This and that
— We had every intention to review the Lance documentary this morning, but to be honest, The Match was way more fun. We will have a film critique on Sunday's 30-for-30 tomorrow. Deal? Deal.
— Speaking of NASCAR, this was a very interesting angle to the no fans policy. This story is about Clint Bowyer's family and how they are still socially distancing as tailgaters outside the races but can't go in and watch Clint go fast and turn left. And the lead to the story is about Chris "Pops" Bowyer, who is sitting in a lawn chair with a plain white T shirt on and his dog Hank at his feet. Which leads us several directions. A) What kind of beer is Pops drinking? B) If I set the over/under on pre-NASCAR race beers for Pops at 14.5 whatcha got? And C)
— And the more serious part of that story is the ripple effects all sports have on surrounding business and economies. Take the Charlotte race and where Pops had his RV parked. It was not allowed on the Charlotte Motor Speedway grounds, so they parked in the Route 29 Pavilion RV campground. The campground normally is sold out for every Charlotte race with 175 motorhomes over 2 acres. This year they had 33 motorhomes. When your business model and profit margins are built on that every-year expectation — especially in an industry like this one — when that vanishes, even for one year, it can be a business killer.
— This is how bored we are as Americans: During the lockdown, the Cannonball Run record of going across the country as fast as possible in an automobile has been set and reset multiple times in the last two months. The reported record right now is crossing the country in 26 hours, 38 minutes in an Audi 8, which, if true, would be an average speed of 106 mph over that time frame.
— Thought this was interesting. And sad. The most popular shows being binge-watched in each state reveals that Friends still appeals to the masses. It was the highest-ranked binge TV show in 10 states. Georgia was one of the 10. Tennessee fared better in the survey — in my view — and Criminal Minds was the most popular here. Some of the strange choices: Missouri had two — Ozark and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because, well, who knows; Alabama and Mississippi listed Law & Order SVU (maybe they were looking for tips); and something called Rick and Morty is way more popular than I realized. (Digging a little, this is a survey not computer numbers, so there's that.)
— Wow, talk about a creative way to generate revenue in these troubled times. The Double A affiliate of the Twins listed their ballpark on Airbnb and rental is $1,500 a night with full access to the grounds and the clubhouse.
— Cam Newton's little brother Caylin has announced he'll be a grad transfer at. Auburn University. One, he will be forever loved there for the miracle Cam worked on The Plains. Two, he better be ready for the jokes, about if Cam cost AU $180,000, did that include a younger sibling to be named later, or fill in your payment zinger here.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
Did you watch The Match? Thoughts?
As for today, well, no dates on this one.
It's Memorial Day. Rushmore of movie moments with Memorial deaths for American soldiers.
Go, and remember the importance of today.