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Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Weekend winners

Alabama. No Saban, no problem. As chaos runs rampant across all of sports — be it cancellations or outbreaks, injuries or opt-outs — the marching band of victory that is the Tide marches forever forward.

Patrick Mahomes. Dude was aces. The offense was humming. And it's pretty clear that the curly-mohawked QB who sounds like a deep-Southern Kermit the Frog has become the face of the league. How clear? Well, Mahomes' charisma as a dude and artistry at the most awed and important position in sports makes us that Tyrek Hill is a an unreal football player rather than a really fast scuzzbucket who would likely one in the pokey if he didn't run a 4.25 40.

Sarah Fuller. More on Vandy in a moment, but if you do not think, man, that Sarah Fuller kicking for Vandy is pretty doggone cool" well, then I don't know what to tell you. Here's more on her history-making appearance from TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer. Sure, we all wanted her to get a chance to kick a PAT or attempt a field goal, but the directional kickoff to start the second half was ground-breaking nonetheless. Especially nice touch with the helmet message of "Play Like a Girl."

Tiana Mangakahia. Yes, that Tiana Mangakahia, the Syracuse women's basketball player who scored 16 of her team's 50 in an 11-point win over Stony Brook over the weekend in her season debut. Yes, there were a lot of impressive season debuts over the weekend, but now know that Mangakahia missed all last season because of the chemo treatments to fight her breast cancer. Fight like a girl, too, I guess.

Derrick Henry. Wowser, and I have forever been in the "Don't pay the running back crowd" but Holy Buckets of bruises and Sweet Sack of stiff arms, King Henry is a grown-bleepin' man among a collection of world-class, grown-bleepin' men. Henry now has three games with 175-plus rushing yards and three or more TDs. The only dudes in NFL history with more are Jim Brown and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Bonus pick: Congrats to Jason G for prevailing in the Intimidator Pool. He had the Browns this weekend. Todd C had the Raiders; Shawn W had the Rams.

 

Weekend losers

The Big Ten. Sure, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on everyone. The outbreaks are everywhere. And the cancellation of THE Ohio State's game Saturday puts the Buckeyes in serious doubt in terms of enough games and a long enough résumé. The mistake here was not in cancelling Saturday's THE OSU-Illinois butt-kicking; the loss this weekend was in the Big Ten's posturing and arrogance in August that put the conference behind the chains in terms of everyone else. Heck, BYU has nine games in a make-shift, non-conference schedule. And to make matters worse, the Big Ten reversed course and decided to play football in large part to give an elite squad at THE Ohio State a chance to get into the playoff.

The NFL. Not really sure how the decision to force the Broncos to play without a quarterback, but the 31-3 result was entirely predictable. (Thanks, my BetMGM account appreciates the lift.) The product was bad — and in large national afternoon window. Going into this, we frequently said that the words "forfeit" and "cancellation" should be viewed in a different light. And, if the quotes from inside the Denver locker room are accurate — heck, the Broncos head coach blames his QBs for being careless and not being "leaders" — then forfeit that game. You want players to adhere to the protocols needed to keep the multi-billion-dollar train on the tracks every week? See how the loss of game-checks affects their approach, and how much more focused the franchises become when they lose a weekly cut from the TV money. But simply put, that product is unwatchable, uncompetitive and unacceptable.

The Jets. Wow, that is a dreadful product right now. While there is a growing belief that New York is keeping Adam Gase simply to insure the pole position in the race for Trevor Lawrence, the river of gaffes, miscues and errors make you wonder if Lawrence would either go all Eli or return to college rather than play for that debacle.

The coach of my fantasy football team. Yes, there is still a chance I could rally, and yes, it would take a miracle not to make the playoffs, and that's the only thing you need — a ticket to the dance that is the last three weeks. But when you leave Latavious Murray, Adrian Peterson and Tee Higgins on your bench to get cute with Brian Hill and Michael Pittman, well, you may be on the hot seat.

Nate Robinson. The former NBA player talked a lot of junk heading into an undercard boxing match over the weekend. And dude got knocked the bleep out. (Side note: Ice Cube's movie, "Friday," is extremely underrated. That is all.)

Texas and Nebraska. Tom Herman and Scott Frost. Heck add in Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. The Longhorns are 5-3, the Cornhuskers are 1-4 and the Wolverines are 2-4 after weekend losses. That's three long-time blue bloods looking up at the likes of Iowa State, Northwestern and Indiana in the standings. (Side question: Is there a better testament to the coaching candidate du jour being as big a coin flip as anything than those three spots, because all three of those dudes entered with national championship contending expectations?)

 

The Match

OK, maybe I was the only one watching The Match on Friday. I have not seen the numbers, but a 3 p.m. broadcast on TNT on Black Friday against big-time college football is not exactly the golf go-zone for TV eyeballs.

But, the product was eminently enjoyable for a multitude of reasons that I think are important in the moment, and long-term, quite telling for the future of sports and sports broadcasting.

First, there is no way to overvalue charisma. Period. We mentioned Mahomes before, and he has it. So does Aaron Rodgers.

So do Barkley and Mickelson and Manning. (Steph seemed rather stiff and irritated, and while I think he's a genuinely good dude, I think his frustrations at playing well below his standard and expectation was wearing on him.)

And that fact made watching them joke and jab enjoyable as only Mickelson resembled anything close to consistently good golf. (Side note: Chuck Barkley has spent the entirety of his quarantined time at the range or in the kitchen. Dude is especially large and in charge, and his widely known dread-tactic golf game is greatly improved. Is he good at golf? No. Is he way, Way, WAY better than the last time we saw him. Absolutely.)

That characteristic of charisma also applies to the dudes calling the action.

Think of it this way and know that the former makes $17 million and the latter makes half of that to work twice as much: Romo = likable and dude you'd want to drink a CoCola with and watch the game; Nantz = stuffy fiancé of your cousin who comes to Thanksgiving and reminds you how he had tickets to the Polo match that EVERYONE was talking about at the yacht club.

And speaking of the broadcast, friends, the future of sports broadcasting is the interactivity between announcer and athlete in real time and in real access.
Sure the players and especially the coaches will absolutely hate it. Hate. It. It will be a difficult transition that may never get to the elite college football or NFL levels because in truth, those leagues know we're going to watch anyway.

But for the rest of sports, be them team or individual, as the numbers trend down, when they start looking around for ways to draw new viewers, miccing these guys up and giving viewers a look inside the ropes, inside the dugout and inside the race car is a truly great addition to the experience.

Now, you need them to embrace it — like Barkley and Mickelson truly did — and go beyond the canned clichés, "Well, we had a great week of practice" and "Our whole team was prepared."  


 

This and that

— So what's next for Vandy? Vandy and Derek Mason agreed to part ways, and when you are winless and get blanked 41-bagel by Missouri, well, then maybe it's time to realize it's not working. But Mason's teams always played hard, and Mason corrected a dumpster fire that James Franklin left inside the building in Nashville. And if Vandy wants more than what Mason delivered — which is understandable considering his final numbers — then as they are looking through candidates, the leadership of Commodores athletics needs to look in the mirror too. There's limited commitment to football, especially for an SEC team, at Vandy, and everyone knows it. That said, the sentiments that Vandy go some sort of gimmicky offense — Hey, Paul Johnson, Nashville's lovely in the spring and there's sneaky good golf there — make a lot of sense. So does new facilities. And a lot of other measures.

— Speaking of Vandy, and the rules, here's Paschall's SEC wrap column leading with the class with which Mason faced every hurdle at Vandy. I'll miss Derek Mason. He's genuinely a good dude, and as a major college football coach, I'm not sure how many of those are left.

— Hey, why not? Let's get the Fab 4 picks started earlier than ever this week. We'll take Charlotte and lay the 1.5 against Western Kentucky. If you're wondering why now, well, because that game kicks at 10:30 Tuesday morning. (Side question: Yeah, is there anything that could happen in the sports world in this the year of the Lord 2020 that would truly shock any of us?)

— Pandemic, word of the year. I get it. If that's the word of the year, according to Websters and Merriam and the rest of those word people. I'd have voted for 'socially distanced' if you could work two words in there, and in truth, maybe the perfect example for the complete cluster that is 2020 os to have a word of the year that is actually words.

— NFL picks are 2-2 headed into the games tonight and tomorrow. Our college picks started quickly and limped to the finish at 2-3. Sigh.

— Side question: Did you see that Daniel Jones, the embattled Giants QB, hurt his hamstring? Side question about the side question: Only fast people hurt their hamstrings right? You don't see slow people pulling a hammy, you know?

— Side question, part II: Why in the world are BYU and Cincinnati not working to schedule a game this Saturday? It would rock, and it would give each a much better argument to get into the playoff, especially if THE Ohio State finishes 4-0.

 

Today's questions

Weekend winners and losers. Go.

As for multiple choice Monday, which of these do you think should have been the word/words of 2020?

> Pandemic;

> Socially distanced;

> COVID-19;

> Asymptomatic.

As for today, well, it's the final day of the penultimate month. Let's review.

Wow, The Wall by Pink Floyd was released on this day in 1979. Thriller was released on this day in 1982, which was the same day that Gandhi premiered.

Personal fav Mark Twain would have been 185 today. Dick Clark would have been 91.

Ben Stiller is 55 today. What makes his Rushmore of feature films?

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