CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. — OK, we're in the Gulf (again) for Fall break. Hey, we're on a mission.
Above is a picture from the Mrs. 5-at-10 last night. Yeah, her camera wins a lot of weekends. We are hoping to have a photo from her each day this week.
We also will try to move more quickly this week. But you know how that goes.
So with the breeze whistling and the waves crashing, from the satellite offices off of 30E in Florida, let's do this.
LeBron James. His fourth Finals MVP after almost averaging a triple-double as the Lakers won the title in six games, aside, King James' résumé does not have to apologize to anyone for being in the GOAT discussion. You know how I feel: I think LeBron is the best basketball player I've ever seen but MJ will always have the iconic status and more titles. Now, despite edging ever-closer to 40 — he will be 36 in late December — the question now becomes, "Does James have two more Larry O'Brien trophies in him?" Because if he matches MJ with six titles, with more Finals appearances, being the all-time leading scorer and top three in assists (he's third now in scoring, 4,100 points behind Kareem, which is roughly a smidge more than two seasons for James; he's eighth in assists, 1,000 behind Steve Nash for third, which also seems like about two normal seasons) then what do we say?
Lane KIffin. Few people have ever gotten more miles from a loss than Kiffin, who had the Lane Train rolling in Knoxville after a loss in Tuscaloosa when Mount Cody blocked a late field goal and got a standing ovation from the home fans in Oxford after scoring half a hundred on Alabama to stay in the race with a Tide offense litter with more NFL stars than half the teams that play on Sunday. (And how Kiffin handled that standing O was classic, saying that he appreciated it, but they lost and he came to Ole Miss to win.) He's mature — we think — and he has always been an ace recruiter and an elite play-caller, and he brokers in the exchange of energetic optimism and optimistic energy as much as any coach in the the country, never mind the SEC. How awesome is this 1-2 start: There are only two schools in the SEC that would for sure not trade coaches with Ole Miss, and that's Alabama and Georgia. Sure Florida, LSU and maybe UK because of what Stoops has built, would eventually say no, but after this weekend in College Station and Columbia, those are not 100 percent given either. And while we're on KIffin, there is no former assistant poised to have long-term success against Saban than Lane, because KIffin is so deep into Saban's head, he has coffee and Oatmeal Creme Pies there at least three times a week. When was the last time an opposing offense made Saban sound as whiny as he did after Saturday night's game when he wondered if Ole Miss was stealing Alabama's signals?
Alex Smith. Forget the stats for a second, a ponder the long road back for this guy from a football-related injury that almost certainly cost him his leg and almost cost him his life. Now try to imagine the courage it took to get back on the field — heck, try to imagine the courage it takes for any quarterback to take the field behind that offensive line — and we all know that Smith is in the rare category of winning by just competing.
Falcons fans. It was past time to turn the page, but after another disastrous beginning, Arthur Blank and his ownership group terminated Dan Quinn and Thomas Dmitroff.
Arkansas fans. Yes, it was such a crazy SEC weekend that arguably two of your top five winners from the weekend actually lost on the scoreboard but won in the eyes of supporters and analysts. Because while Ole Miss and Kiffin got major points for the effort and offense, you can't look past what Sam Pittman has done at Arkansas through three weeks. His Hogs fought Georgia as well if not better than UT and Auburn, ended a 19-game SEC losing streak by beating Ole Miss, and was an unfortunate whistle from beating an Auburn program that had cooked the Hogs the last four years by a combined score of 193-36 (that's 48.3 to 9, right Spy?). Hard not to be encouraged by the early energy and fight Pittman's getting from a short-sided roster gang.
Kirby and Dabo. Yes, Alabama is the class of college football. You have to tip the visor of the sustained excellence that Lord Saban has maintained for more than a decade. But with upset-minded and red-hot conference rivals ranked in the top-15 coming to town over the weekend, Georgia and Clemson did was elite-level programs do — they punched them in the face and handled their BID-ness.
Matt Ryan. Is he washed? Seriously. I also wonder if Ryan, who will be a top-10 all-time stats guy is not Matt Stafford with one good postseason run? When Julio Jones has not been on the field the last couple of seasons Ryan has been absolutely pedestrian, and that may be overly kind to children. In truth, as the Falcons hit the reset button, they need to tank for Trevor. There is no better fit. They have better pieces than the Jets, and if they go get Bieneimy or make a pitch to Dabo (or KIffin — kidding mostly), they will have better coaching. Plus, Lawrence, who grew up in Cartersville, about 50 miles north of Mercedes Benz Stadium, could pull and Eli and tell the stinky Jets or the no good Jags, that he wants no part of their franchise and force his way into Atlanta.
Dak Prescott. Wow, for a guy that was betting a quarter of billion on himself going into free agency, Sunday was a true nightmare. A compound fracture and dislocated ankle injury that required immediate emergency surgery Sunday afternoon happened in the Cowboys come-from-behind win over the Giants with Andy Dalton working in relief. Awful circumstances for someone who almost everyone says his a genuinely good dude, because who knows if Prescott can come back next year with that kind of injury considering the rehab times it took for Alex Smith and Teddy Bridgewater, each of whom had gruesome leg disasters. And let Dalton lead that talented offense into the playoffs, and Dak will be looking for a Mariota-like contract rather than a franchise-level, $160-million-over-four-or-five-years deal.
Texas. Yes, they made a huge deal about beating a supremely talented and even more supremely unmotivated Georgia bunch in the Sugar Bowl a few years ago. Yes, they have world class facilities and the pedigree of an all-time top-10 program. But we need to stop with the "Texas is back" narrative for a good, long while gang. Sorry Mike. The Longhorns are 2-2 in a putrid Big 12 this year — and very easily could be 1-3 , and since that game the Horns are 10-7 with a record-setting QB and bagel-and-2 showings against Oklahoma and TCU, and likely will be an underdog against Iowa State in coming weeks. Is Tom Herman's seat hot?
To be so advanced as a society and to actually have things like smart houses and smart cars, we are getting dumber and dumber as people. This headline "What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Change Your Underwear" is so 2020 and certainly must go beyond the clear: "No one hangs out with you because you smell funny" corollary. Oh my.
The 5-at-10 and his football connections. College picks here went 2-3 (we made a little extra money Saturday because of Arkansas, the Ole Miss-Bama over when we saw weather was not a factor and contrarian bets on A&M — that line stunk — and Georgia because everyone was yapping about UT); NFL picks went 1-2 (we lost a little more than that because the Falcons are the Falcons — and yes, anyone who bets on the Falcons does not deserve sympathy); Fantasy team underperformed for its third straight loss — stupid Matt Ryan; we all saw Auburn lay that floater on the field (side note: Auburn does not play Vandy, so if AU is favored by more than 3 points against any SEC team, this year, including Mississippi State, bet against Auburn) I lead a pretty charmed life, but man my football ties right now are under a blood moon.
Let's be Brave
OK, for most of the baseball season, we all sit around here and bemoan or are bedazzled by the Braves.
They are our boys of summer across the South, and for most of us around this age, considering the impact and ever-presence of the TBS, the Atlanta baseball team and the words of a Carey (be it Skip or Chip) represent the backdrop to our summer.
That's how it has been and how it should be. In fact, other than football, having the Braves — even in their completely irregular, fan-less existence — on in the background has been one of the more normal parts of this surreal 2020. And I thank them for that; I believe we all do.
But now friends, we must part ways. I grew up a Dodgers fan. Whether it was the uniforms or that Steve Garvey's faux signature was in the heel of my first glove or the fact that Dad loved the Yankees and I needed a team to cheer against his and the Dodgers in '77 and '78 were that team, I'm not sure.
May likely be a combo, but that's where we are, and I am still a Dodgers fan today. Will always be.
Yes, I know more about the Braves, watch the Braves more and discuss the Braves around here — heck I pull for the Braves against every other team but one — but that does not change who I am.
So with that caveat, let's review the NLCS between my favorite team and yours.
Starting pitching — slight edge to the Dodgers because of depth, but the simple fact that the edge is slight — considering the stuff and the pedigree of Walker Buelher and Clayton Kershaw — is a staggering testament two what Max Fried and Ian Anders have evolved into over the course of the last few months. The first two games are especially critical for the Braves considering the seven-games-(if necessary)-in-seven-days schedule. Sneaky analytic point of order that should make Braves fans smile: Among starters with enough innings to qualify, Anders has the best home run rate again in the big leagues and Fried is sixth at 0.9 percent of his pitches were hit over the fence. Anderson's rate was eye-poppingly great — one homer allowed in 764 pitches which is 0.7 percent — and this numbers are especially critical for a Dodgers offense that is buoyed by the big bomb.
Bullpen — Edge Braves, especially at the back end, where Mark Melancon and Chris Martin have become as trustworthy as Lincoln and your father's fireside advice. On the other side, Kenley Janson is a hard-throwing snake oil salesman who makes Rick Davis look like your childhood pastor. (Too many metaphors and similes there? You decide.)
Offense — Slight edge Dodgers. These are the two best offenses in baseball in almost every metric. But the Dodgers are more balanced and infinitely deeper 1-through-9 (and off the bench, because hey, the Dodgers have $107.9 million prorated payroll this year, the Braves are a smidge under $63.1 million). The Braves can not afford an injury or a slump from their big three atop the order — no matter what Dansby did in the first two months or what d'Arnaud did over the last two weeks — whereas the Dodgers are lethal from top to bottom. How much so? Cody Bollinger, the 2019 NL MVP is hitting sixth on most days for the Dodgers. Sixth.
Pick — Dodgers in six.
Know this, whichever team wins this series will be the team I root for come the World Series, and that's a good thing, to have a vested interest either way.
But, while the top five or so stars on each side are close to even, and the Braves surging bullpen has been a bona fide strength, the Dodgers overwhelming depth and balance will be too much, especially in a series that normally would cover 10-12 days or so, but now will be done in a week.
This and that
— Man, SNL is riding some controversy right? We knew last week that personal fav Morgan Wallen stepped in it and was cancelled as the musical act. Well, host Bill Burr, a comedian I have never really heard of am familiar with stepped in it over the weekend. Here's an interesting talking point of what parts of comedy should and should not be offensive, because Burr heckled the snot out of anti-maskers — even suggesting they kill themselves indirectly — but got a lot of heat for making fun of white women and almost all groups in one shape or form. I personally did not find much of it funny, to be honest, but if you are making satirical and derogatory comments about all sides, you're not really an 'int' are you? Maybe you are a bleep-hole, but if you are ticking everyone off in an attempt at humor are your really targeting one specific group, which has always been part of my definition of almost all of the 'isms' in today's sensitive society.
— You know the rules. Paschall had about 17 hundred college football stories over the weekend, but if you are going to read any of them, spend a little time on his thorough and thoughtful SEC follow column here. Great stuff.
— Speaking of baseball, Rays grabbed a 1-0 lead over Houston Sunday night.
— Speaking of the NBA, the TV numbers will be out this week, but it can't be good. And the celebration last night was as much about social justice as it was about LeBron and the Lakers.
— We meant to add it earlier, but man tough weekend for Jarrett Guarantano for sure, and for the UT fan base, who certainly had every reason to believe Saturday's trip to Athens was going to be way more competitive than that, especially with that kind of start. (Side note: Yeah, I'm likely going to have to issue a public apology to Stetson Bennett, the IV, quarterback at law. Dude is composed.)
— Still got a couple of irons in the Intimidator Pool fire. Will update that tomorrow.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
Multiple choice Monday.
Which SEC fan base has the right to be the most upset today?
— LSU, which is 1-2 and wondering if Coach O is Gene Chizik 2.0
— Florida, which had to be wondering if Paschall's pet phrase of "Third-down-and-Grantham" is actually an rule right about now;
— Auburn, which is the most fraudulent 2-1 in the country considering the missed UK TD at the end of the first half in the opener and the missed Bo Nix brain cramp at the end of the Arkansas game;
— Mississippi State, which re-upped their season tickets on the Pirate Ride because Mike Leach and Co. put 8 million passing yards and an LSU shell, but now have been toppled by Arkansas and UK in successive weeks;
Also worth asking, should Tennessee be an option since it's clear the divide to Georgia is no where closer than it has been for a while now.
As for today, Oct. 12, let's review.
Well today is Columbus Day, but that is now offensive so strike that.
It also is Hugh Jackman's birthday, and he got some love on here last week.
It's also, national kick butt day. So there's that.
Hey, Rushmore of movie fight scenes — not boxing or wrestling or that kind of stuff, but old-school fist fight scenes.