FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts the ball from Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Stingley Jr. was selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first-team, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Say what?

In terms of politics, it's "Stick to sports" unless of course I concur with your sports-political view.

In terms of college athletes, it's the dichotomous, "Yeah, but these are kids" or just as quickly, "Yeah, but these are young men."

In terms of the sports we love, "It's a game" is just as convenient, true and reversible as "It's a business."

In terms of players and their contracts, if a guy like Alvin Kamara wants more coin and sits out, it's "Honor your contract." When Kamara gets cut, it's just as quick and completely hypocritical to say "He's cooked."  

In terms of answering any argument about why any quarterback is not as good as his numbers say or not as bad, "Yeah, but look at his wide receivers," which is the rare double play in the same sentence.  

The double talk we have in our sports chats these days are head-spinning. And probably expected. Hey, it's 2020. Of course the unusual is normal and the unexpected is predictable.

But it's beyond blame on the craziest year of the last half century, because it's a sports tradition that is as familiar as patrons off Washington and Magnolia, tailgating in the Grove and slapping the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign before coming out of the Notre Dame tunnel.

The duality is not always duplicitous and it's only occasionally devilish in the detail.

We love sports, and we love our teams, but the difference in debates and disagreements in sports rather than politics is the final outcome is beyond our control.

We have opinions, we look to support them, we try to convince those on the other side that our stance is strong and proper, and then the final scores and outcomes and the action provide the facts that either prove or disprove those viewpoints on either side.

In so many other ways, we flip that order. We find stats and stories that are malleable and they become the twisted crutches for an opinion that we say and even believe is fact-based. Then, when the other opinion is offered on more malleable and twisted crutches, we know the other side is lying and wrong and evil.

In the end, it's example No. 3,201 why sports > politics.


Which brings us to

We have covered the fundamental fallacy of the "stick to sports" through time. Be it Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson or Ali or the double fists on the medal stand in Mexico City or the shootings at the Munich Games in '72 or the boycotts in 1980 and '84 or the well you get the idea.

Sports and politics are forever intertwined. And they were weaved together long before Donald Trump bought his first rental property.  

But the juxtaposition of Trump's hard "Stick to sports" over the three-plus years of his presidency took the next step Tuesday when news started to swirl that Trump was getting into the conversation to try to get the schools in the Big Ten to play college football sooner rather than later.

Big Ten kick offs as in, around Columbus Day rather than Thanksgiving or MLK Day.

Of course Trump is the president, and his purview covers the entire landscape and that's, as the song states, from sea to shining sea. It's more than ironical, though, for the president who has demanded and shouted and Tweeted with several words in all-caps and exclamation points for sports to avoid politics that he's now politicizing sports.

And if you think this is anything short of that, well, I don't believe Trump cares that much about whether Ryan Day and THE Ohio State Buckeyes get a shot at the title or whether Coach Khaki can end his slide against Day's Buckeyes or whether Purdue Purdoes or Purdoesn't.

And most of you folks know that I think the Big Ten was in error to decide hard and fast early last month to call football. I believe they owed it to their players and fans to explore every opportunity, and  

He does care greatly about getting re-elected, and if Trump can get the Big Ten back online to play opposite the SEC and the ACC and contend for the college football playoff, it could be the trump card Trump needs in some absolute battleground states that Trump won four years ago by the slimmest of margins.

Check the numbers: Trump won the 2016 election and carried the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a grand total of right around 75,000 votes combined.

Trump won Pennsylvania by roughly 44,000 votes which was 0.7 percent. He won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes, which was 0.3 percent. He won Wisconsin by less than 17,000 votes, which was 0.7 percent. Those 48 electoral college votes swung the election.

Getting Big Ten football back this fall would be an enormous feather in the president's helmet in those three states, no? In truth, just trying is going to benefit Trump in the eyes of countless voters who love the Wolverines, the Badgers and the Nittany Lions in those states.

So, rather the stick to sports mantra, let's play politics.


And now this

OK, let's move beyond clever phrasing and heavy topics.

Yes, the Corona has handed us all lemons (or limes) and the lemonade of the last six months has been bitter.

But around us as we speak, is the greatest cornucopia in the history of sports. Just look around.

In baseball, I've always said, talk to me in the 'er' months. Well, you know what friends, we're in the 'er' months. September is here and the playoff races are closing in around us. Side note, part I: The Braves are doing what playoff teams do right now, and that's punishing stinky teams. And sorry, Spy, your Red Sox are truly stinky. Side question, part I: Are you buying stock in Ian Anderson yet? That sharp, 2-to-8 breaking ball was downright filthy to right-handers last night.

In the NBA, we're surrounded by Game 7s and playoff performances that shape legacies far more than regular season greatness. Side note, part II: James Harden is facing a very George Gervin/Alex English type of pigeon-holing if he flames out in Game 7 tonight. Harden is an all-time scorer, but if he can't get by a clearly inferior OKC team tonight in the first round, well, his coach will get canned and it will fall at the tail end of his luxurious whiskers. Side question, part II: Does any sport craft the narrative of all-time greatness more with playoff moments and accomplishments more than basketball? Think of the names and the comparisons: John Stockton was far superior a player to Isiah Thomas, but the two titles swing the conversation. I believe the same about MJ and King James. Nevermind the Russell-Wilt conversation that is no where close in terms of personal numbers or in team accomplishments the other way. In fact, it carries over in college hoops too, because Pistol Pete gets far too few GOAT votes that normally go to Lew Alcinder or Bill Walton or even Christian Laettner before Maravich.

College football has started and will continue tomorrow night with more games. And the conversation and anticipation will only grow. Side note, part III: The images of Nick Saban walking out front of his players Monday in the social justice protest in Tuscaloosa were extremely powerful. And extremely smart. I firmly believe that Saban's intention was centered on supporting his players and the cause, but make ZERO mistake, Saban is well aware of how those images play in the front of Black recruits across the country. Side question, part III: How bad is it going to get financially for these programs without college football? Yeah, that may be more rhetorical than practical, but as we got news earlier this week that Texas — yes, as in State U., as in that Texas, the flush and powerful Longhorns, who happen to have their own network — was cutting jobs, closing open positions and issuing paycuts, comes details that Michigan — yes, that Michigan — is cutting jobs as it faces "significant" financial losses in 2020.

(Side question, part IV: Is the threat to SEC football proving to be the carrot those of us in the South needed to put more effort in wearing masks? You could make that argument considering the A1 story in today's TFP.)

The NFL is right around the corner. Egad, not a moment too soon. Side note, part IV: I can't recall an NFL season for which I have been excited. Maybe that's because of the pandemic. Maybe that's because of my increased interest in fantasy football. Maybe it's because of the bevy of young and talent QBs that are everywhere around the league. Maybe it's because of the rhythm and persistence of the NFL calendar has been the one sports-world constant in this time of universal unrest. Either way, I'm stoked. Side question, part V: NFL picks? Should we continue the streaking numbers from last year? I'm leaning toward yes. Also, if we host an NFL suicide pool, who's in?

And that's before we get to the NHL playoffs, the golf season finale at East Lake, the U.S. Open in NYC, the Kentucky Derby this weekend and NASCAR starting the playoffs this week.

Is this the most packed sports weekend in the history of sports? Discuss.


This and that

— You know the rules. And holy buckets of ink and effort, friends TFP college football expert — and quite possibly workaholic — David Paschall dropped three college football stories in today's TFP. Here's Paschall's prose on the SEC schedule on CBS, UT coach Jeremy Pruitt's view on the social justice marches and the new face that could become Georgia's starting right tackle. Wow, what did you do yesterday? And while we're here, Happy Birthday, DP.

— Here are details about the text Robert Kraft sent Tom Brady when news became official that Brady was headed to Tampa Bay. The text — "Love you more than you know for being so classy in everything you do. Your parents should be so proud. I love them for creating you. You are truly one of a kind." — was powerful. So apparently, Kraft doesn't;'t always get a happy ending.

— Wow, the former Mrs. Jeff Bezos is now the richest woman in the world.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way

Which of the above questions — you can find them — intrigues you the most?

Which date, if you had to guess, will Big Ten kick off — Oct. 10, Thanksgiving or a Saturday in January?

Which NBA player has the most riding on this abbreviated playoff/season?

As for today, Sept. 2, other than it being Paschall's birthday, let's review.

On this day in 1969, the first ATM was was installed. (Side note, part, who knows: Do not have an ATM card. Don't like them to be honest. Cash a check each pay period and when that cash is gone, so is my spending money.)

Jimmy Connors is 68 today. Lennox Lewis is 55. Salma Hayek is a very well-aged 54.

Also, Keanu Reeves is 56.

Rushmore of Keanu films. Go and remember the mailbag.