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Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James sets up a play during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Weekend winners

LeBron James. Everyone chases championships. That's a sports given. LeBron is chasing ghosts, his contemporaries being the one-name greats of previous eras. Jordan. Kareem. Wilt. Magic. Bird. Whomever you think is the GOAT, LeBron continues to craft a résumé forged with line items that are impossible to deny. Yes, Jordan has the rings and will forever be known for being 6-0 in the NBA Finals. But LeBron is headed to  his ninth NBA Finals in 10 seasons. And unlike MJ — when Jordan left to play baseball/serve a suspension for gambling, you pick, the Bulls still were a formidable team in the East — when LeBron has left places, the franchise craters. The Cavs went from NBA Finals to No. 1 overall pick when he went to Miami. The Heat went from NBA Finals to missing the playoffs when James went back to Cleveland. The Cavs went from NBA Finals to 19-63 when he went to LA. I understand the glorification of MJ — I was a big sports fan during his heyday — and I know that LeBron has alienated a whole lot of folks — rightly or wrongly — in the last year or so. But I also believe this: LeBron James is the best basketball player I've ever seen. MJ may be the GOAT and his deification will be unmatched in team sports now and forever, but James — who is going to likely be the NBA's all-time leading scorer and top-five in assists and top 50 in rebounds — is the best I've ever seen play the game.

SEC football fans. That was a lot of fun, and for the first time since the games started, it felt like a college football Saturday. Also of note: I firmly believe that multiple SEC sites — looking at you Auburn — had way more than the precautionary percentages. It's worth pointing out that regardless of numbers, the crowds were loud enough to help generate ambiance that was felt on the broadcasts.

Mike Leach. There was a lot to love about Saturday around the SEC, but the clear story was Leach, the pass-happy pirate who pulled the levers as KJ Costello set a league record with 6 billion passing yards. And this was not against a directional school, gang. This was at LSU — yes, an LSU bunch without Derek Stingley Jr., who is easily the best cornerback not playing on Sundays in the sport — and, to paraphrase Teri Hatcher's great Seinfeld appearance, "it was real and it was spectacular."

Miami sports fans. OK, last Thursday the Dolphins won. Over the weekend the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals, the Hurricanes trounced rival FSU and the Marlins made the playoffs. High times on South Beach these days.

Braves line-up. Freddie Freeman and Marcel Ozuna are as good as any 1-2 punch still left playing. (Side note: The White Sox are really good.) That said, if Ronald Acuña Jr.'s wrist is a long-term concern, well, the Braves are in the dance but who knows for how many songs.    

 

Weekend losers

The Atlanta Braves in general. Yes, the regular season closed with a couple of big-time bats moving to the front of the NL MVP race. And yes, the intrigue of the final day of the regular season and the unknown about the playoff match-ups was fun. But the Braves got the single worst possible draw in either league for a division winner considering that the Reds starting pitchers are downright filthy, led by NL Cy Young contender Trevor Bauer and his 100-mph heater and 1000-mph personality. Bauer has a 1.73 ERA and 100 Ks (with only 17 walks) in 73 innings. In fact the Reds have four starters with sub-3.75 ERAs and better than 11 Ks per 9 inning ratios. Worst three-game draw possible.

SEC fans overreacting to the good, the bad and the ugly from a season debut that was filled with all of that and more. Let's cue the Aaron Rodgers' "R-E-L-A-X. Relax." As long as your bunch got a W, everything else is gravy. (Well, if you're an avid Aggies alum, yeah a five-point hold-on over Vandy is cause for concern.) Side note: Great idea from the TFP sports section to have TFP SEC oracle David Paschall compile an SEC wrap column on Mondays. Here's the first installment

Big 12. Yes, they are a Power Five conference — in name — but will they have a place at the playoff table? Hard to see it with Oklahoma losing to a Kansas State bunch that got pushed around by Arkansas State and with Texas needing to score 15 points in the final three minutes of regulation to get an overtime win over Texas Tech, which allowed 600-plus yards to Houston Baptist. Sun Belt > Big 12? Not as big a stretch as you may think.

FSU. Of course there are other things to get to, and there are a few other things from college football that could be mentioned here — like Georgia's and Texas A&M's offensive offenses. But Holy Buckets of Bowden Bile, these Seminoles are DEEEEE-readful. A 52-10 loss to rival Miami was bad enough. But in the scoreboard-watching comparable, the Georgia Tech team that topped FSU in Tallahassee to start the season got house-called by a bad Syracuse team. There was a time at the peak of Bowden's powers when FSU was new to the ACC in the 1990s that this sentence was simply impossible to imagine but here it is: FSU is the worst program in the ACC right now. Seriously. And know this: Duke and FSU are battling for the basement in the ACC, and it's apropos right now to say that Duke and FSU (gasp) are (this is gonna hurt) right now (nooooooooo) and for the foreseeable future (yeah, we gotta say it) basketball schools.

Mitchell Trubisky. That's a wrap, right? Midway through the third quarter Trusbisky was 13-for-22 for 128 yards and a TD and a pick as the Bears were getting worked by the Falcons. Granted, the Falcons have patented new-found ways to snatch defeat from the iron jaws of victory. So, enter Nick Foles, who shreds the Falcons to the tune of three TD drives in the fourth quarter on 9-of-12 passing for 119 yards. Man, the No. 2 spot is a black hole for QBs, no? Consider these active No. 2 QBs who are playing like, well No. 2, if they are playing at all: Trubisky (2017), Carson Wentz (2016), Marcus Mariota (2015) and RG III (2012). And if you keep going, well, Donovan McNabb worked in 1999, but Ryan Leaf ('98), and Rick Mirer ('93) means QBs with the No. 2 pick over the last 40 years has been bust-bonanza.  

 

Bye, bye Birds boss

Speaking of those rotten Falcons, well, it has to be time right?

Dan Quinn, yet again, pushed all the wrong buttons and the Falcons became the best 0-3 in the league.

Don't come with injuries. Yes, Julio was on the bench with a hamstring and Russell Gage was knocked from the game and possibly concussed.

(Side note: We have some rules around these parts. Be cordial; you can disagree and be passionate, but like the Greeson family rule, you can never go wrong by being kind. No fouls language; it's a FOIB (family-oriented, interweb-based) operation after all. If Paschall writes college football, we read and link Paschall's prose on college football. If Hargis writes prep sports, we read and link Hargis' headlines on prep sports. Time to add a new one: When given the opportunity to use the word concussed, we are now officially obligated to use the word concussed. As Uncle Buck said, "It's in the books.")

Last week it was not knowing the rules. This week it was Nick Foles looking like Dan Fouts. In the Super Bowl it was play-calling. Injuries have been periodically blamed, but what team in the NFL is not dealing with injuries at some point or another.

Plus, throughout the post-Super Bowl slide it's been a defensive debacle — and remember Quinn is a defensive dude — for Atlanta.

Believe me, I know them all, because I have watched some or all of almost every Falcons game for as long as I can remember.

And the one constant in this continual and exacerbating spiral down the NFL drain has been Quinn.

And it's time to end it.

When looking to make a coaching change the question should be who are we going to get. But occasionally, the realization of "This is simply not working" must be addressed before the next question about next can be addressed.

And the only thing certain about Quinn and his role with these Falcons is that it is not working. And it hasn't been for years now.

 

This and that

— There were a slew of winners for sure, and we did not have room for all of them. But we'd be remiss if we did not mention the Florida Kyles — Trask and Pitts — who were a big part of the Gators' 642 yards of offense. Trask threw for 416 and tied a school record with six TD passes. Pitts caught four of those scores among his eight grabs for 170 yards.

— My picks were a bit unlucky. Yes, the A&M pick was dreck, but Alabama was the right side regardless of how erratic Bryce Young was in mop-up time. USTA was the right side too, and led by multiple scores before the Roadrunners' starting QB was knocked out of the game. So our college picks split at 3-3 (again) which is the entertainment equivalent of watching a CSI: Gruetli-Laager — yeah, it's CSI and you got the feel, but in the end nabbing Bubba and his moonshine still (also known as paying juice to the house) was very blahtastic. The NFL picks went 2-3 because a) the Titans made history as the first NFL team ever to be 3-0 straight up and 0-3 against the spread and b) I was dumb enough to back Dan Quinn. So it goes.

— This story is nuts, but Joe Montana and his wife had to fight off a kidnapper who was trying to take their granddaughter. Man, 2020 go ahead and get on your way.

— Such a great Monday night game in store tonight. (Side note: Pull for Clyde Edwards-Helaire to have a big night, otherwise, I'll lose my first fantasy football game in almost a year.)

— Also of note, apparently the New York Times has some issues with Donald Trump's tax returns. Maybe you've heard a bit about it in the last 24 hours or so.

 

Today's question

Weekend winners and losers fire away.

As for today, Sept. 28, let's review.

On this day 60 years ago, Ted Williams homered in his final at-bat in the big leagues. That's super cool, and considering the time he missed in two tours of service, for my dollar, Teddy Ballgame is right there with Babe Ruth as the best to ever pick up a bat.
 
Today is also national family day. So there's that. It's also national drink beer day. That one I'll forever support.

Hazel debuted on this day in 1961. Rushmore of TV maids.

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