Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies follows through on a three-run home run in the 11th inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. The Braves won 8-6. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Braves in first

You go Ozzie Albies.

The switch-hitting Braves lead-off hitter bailed out anything but Fresh Prince closer Will Smith.

Albies' walk-off three-run homer gave the Braves an 8-6 win in 11 innings and moved Atlanta into a tie for first. It's the first time since April 29 that the Braves have had a share of the division lead.

It was a win-win-win on almost every count for the home team, the short straws being a) Smith, who is becoming as reliable as a penny stock and b) any aggressive parlay bettors who may be riding a heater and took Braves money line, Albies to homer and Touch Toussiant to strike out 6 or more Reds. (Yeah, that one stung, since, a) that three-team parlay payed better than +1700 — bet $100, win $1,700 — and Toussiant finished with 5 Ks before being pulled with no one out in the sixth. Yikes.)

The rest, though, was gravy, for a Braves team that is 8-2 in their last 10 and have the look of the class of the division.

It also points to a few big-picture conversations.

First, when the Braves are playing this well, I think it allows fans to live in the present and focus on the future, rather than lamenting the past and the mistakes. That's a much more enjoyable realm of fandom in my opinion.

Second, I have to admit, I like the switch-hitting Albies in the 1-hole of the order. Yes, if Ronald Acuña is "Leadoff-or-bust" in his beliefs, that's one thing, but if you flip this order a bit when it's 100% healthy, Allies-Freeman-Acuña-Riley is a 1-thru-4 that does not have to apologize to any team in any league on any planet.

Third, Touki Toussiant is going to be one of those guys, gang. Not saying he has 1A ace-level stuff — few do — but he did not have his best stuff last night. He fanned five (just one more K, just one) and managed to hold a good Reds order to just a two-run Joey Votto homer. When your starting pitcher struggles and only allows two earned over five-plus, that's a very high floor for expectations.

Finally, Smith needs to improve or realize he's a seventh- or eighth-inning guy who may be situational.


First day of school

Well, as Ron Burgundy told the Channel 4 News Team, "That escalated in a hurry."

Amid the shameful politicization of our kids and the COVID-19, we returned to school in Hamilton County on Thursday.

I took my eighth grader to school and asked if he was nervous or excited. He said a little of both.

I asked what he was nervous about and he said, "Just to see which of my friends are in my classes."

Ah, if it were only that simple. He's vaccinated, so sending him amid this leaderless mask-no-mask free-for-all is less of a worry.

His fifth-grade sister, though, who is still too young to get vaccinated, that's a different ballgame in my opinion.

And don't even get me started on the school board saying masks are required unless parents opt out.

Because are we now going to allow parents to pick and choose what school policies fit their beliefs?

"You know, my high school student really needs a few extra hours of sleep. Think we're going to opt out of your start time.

"You know, son really reads better without his shirt on, so about that dress code thing, yeah, we're opting out of that too."

They just opened Pandora's box of masks, whether they realize it or not.


Lighter side

Yeah, lots of heaviness today. Lots of angst. It's the time in which we live.

So, let's revel in the glory that is J.R. Smith returning to college and petitioning the NCAA to be part of the North Carolina A&T golf team.

First, I am here for all the J.R. Smith I can get. In fact, J.R.'s in general — J.R. Richard, J.R. Ewing, former UNC star J.R. Reid, J.R. (R.) Tolkien, hey you write The Lord of the Rings, feel free to add an extra "R" — are friends in my book.

Second, think how much fun this could be for college golf.

J.R. Smith is far from the only NBA player to go straight from high school — which means his eligibility clock never started ticking — and think of the baseball players who could use this loophole, too.

Finally, anything that can allow me not to think about actual real-life issues right now is a very good thing, I gotta say.  


This and that

— Did you see the story in the Washington Post that an advisory committee for the American Medical Association — the nation's largest association of physicians — wants the association to remove the Male or Female designation from birth certificates? I wish I was kidding. In fact, as some of us lean into the "trust the science and what the doctors say" in terms of fighting the COVID-19, this is especially bad timing.

— Very newsy TFP today, and know this: If you have some rate hikes, tax increases or some sort of public figure mea culpa around these parts, now is the time to air it out. Because amid all the hubbub of the return to school and the machinations over mask mandates, this is a great time to announce that Chattanooga Gas will raise rates more than 8%, Signal Mountain and Red Bank are raising taxes, like Chattanooga, to pay for employee raises (don't get me started), DA Neal Pinkston continues to fight with the Hamilton County Commission, and who knows what else.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the trimming of the UT QB herd and on the emergence of Henry To'o To'o among an already-stacked Alabama defense.  

— Going to ride the hot hand that is the Braves in terms of gambling, and I'll pay the minus-140 (bet $140 to win $100). Also, I feel like the ball may fly at the Field of Dreams setting tonight. Check the wind if you can before the 8 p.m. first pitch, but over the 9.5 seems very doable for the Yankees and White Sox.

— So the "Jeopardy!" folks named the current producer and Blossom as the replacement hosts. And apparently longtime fans are ticked by the decision. Whatever.


Today's questions

Got a spot in the mailbag, so fire away.

True or false on a Thursday, "Jeopardy!" fades away over the next few years without Alex Trebek.    

So ESPN named THE dotting of THE 'I' at THE Ohio State as the best tradition in college football. Hmmmm, how many votes did Herbstreit get? The rest of the top five were touching Howard's Rock at Clemson, the cadets march in the Army-Navy game, Ralphie's run at Colorado and the Kinnick Wave at Iowa. Did they get it right, and what did they miss?

As for today, Aug. 12, let's review.
Pete Sampras is 50 today. Sampras is that Aaron/Duncan conversation of all-time greats who actually may be underrated, if you ask me.  

What is your suggestion for the Rushmore of college football traditions?

Go, and enjoy the day.