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Atlanta Braves' Jorge Soler celebrates his home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Weekend winners

We have to start with the Braves, right? I mean, have to. Winners of nine in a row, 13 consecutive road games and 16-2 over their last 18, sweet buckets these have become the Junkyard Dogs of the dogs days of August. Yes, the schedule strengthens with two against the Yankees, three against the Giants and three more at L.A. Those three teams are a combined 87 games over .500. But the pace and purpose of this Braves bunch — starting pitching has been consistent; bullpen pitching has been better (although Will Smith is going to put a whole new spin on the Rolaids Relief Man references because he gives me a large case of heartburn); and the lineup has pummeled bad pitching and competed against good — has been joyous. One more stat: after going April through July without being able to get over .500 and languishing between second and fourth in the standings, this torrid run has the Braves 12 games over and 5 games clear of the rest of the NL East. Go figure. (Side admission: I have heckled The Snit as much as anyone — and in some ways, dude would be as well served as any manager by ditching the full uniform and going with the pullover/athletic attire look — but dude keeps his hand, and his club, calm and their keel even. Kudos.)

High school football players. That we started amid all this — some schools had cancellations and Heritage High in Georgia is dealing with a big-time COVID-19 outbreak — makes every senior who put on pads Friday night a winner. How long will the season last? Who knows.

And high school honor roll (which will be a regular addition each Monday in the winners category), man, here's betting this is not the last time William Riddle's name will be here, but egad. The McCallie senior finished 26-of-33 for 401 yards and six TDs. Wow.

Miguel Cabrera. The veteran right-handed slugger etched his name on some impressive lists with his 500th homer Sunday in Toronto. He's the 28th player to get to the 500-home-runs club. He's 45 hits from becoming just the seventh player in big league history to get to 500 homers and 3,000 hits, and the names on that list are among the all-timers. And speaking of names among the pantheon, Cabrera is one of nine guys to reach 500 homers with a .300 batting average. The others are Babe, Hank, Teddy Ball Game, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas. (Side question: Frank Thomas, underrated in retrospect? Discuss.)

The NFL. Yeah, the NFL wins almost all the time because it's the NFL. But two things: One, I heard a conversation that is a true statement to the social disconnect between the NFL and the NBA in the eyes of the casual sports fan. It offered that the NFL has a commissioner, who actually works for the owners, but Roger Goodell, for all his faults, runs the league like a boss. People identify with having a boss and that structure. The NBA has a commissioner that is a puppet, more for the players than the owners, if we're being honest. Take the recent scheduling discussion and Adam Silver saying he's open to discussing it after hearing LeBron was not happy. Huh? Can you imagine Goodell ever thinking, "Well, let me check with Lamar Jackson first?" No. (And neither that exchange nor that relationship has anything to do with race, since both leagues are filled with a vast majority of Black players.) Second, for the NFL, well, amid all the talk about how down TV viewership is and how everyone is looking for an explainer or a comp to make the NBA's drop not as overly huge as the numbers seem, the NFL TV numbers this preseason are up big and bordering on the best ever for the NFL Network.

 

Weekend losers

Falcons. GER-ross. Yes, they played the back-ups — they are far from alone in that decision — but that was dreadful Saturday. Losing AJ McCarron to an ACL is bad. A 20-point loss — and allowing 37 points in a preseason filled with three-and-outs and dump-off passes — is awful. And it's not like the Dolphins are going to be confused with the 2008 Patriots, for Pete Rozelle's sake. How bad is the Falcons defense going to be? Well, they allowed 4.0 yards a carry to a Miami team that took the air off it not long after halftime, and while the Dolphins backup QBs — Jacoby Brissett and someone called Reid Sinnett combined to go 10-of-10 for 106 yards and two TDs. The Falcons trailed 30-3 after three quarters.

Country music. Tom T. Hall was a gentleman and a great storyteller with his music. Sure, he had long been out of the limelight, but his death over the weekend silenced another all-time voice from the golden days of the genre.

Aaron Rei. Needing a bogey to find the playoff and a par to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, Rei's double-bogey turned a one-shot lead after 71 holes into a one-shot win for Greyson Sigg after 72 holes. Again, tough to ever put a pro golfer on the weekend losers list, since, you know, they play golf for a living. But ouch.

Sha'Carri Richardson. The American sprinter lost her spot on the U.S. Olympic team for testing positive for marijuana. In her return to the track over the weekend, she finished last in the 100 and had another disappointing performance in a different sprint. As for a bonus, it set off a real social media war of words between two Fox sports commentators and two well-known ESPN dudes. 

1980s rock nostalgia. When two of the faces of the Rock-n-Roll times of your childhood have a Twitter beef that includes David Lee Roth using the middle-finger emoji 18 times toward Gene Simmons, well, dang. Guess those two old fellas will unfriend each other on FaceSpace.

 

College football time

I'm giddy. (I'd be more giddy if we'd handled our vaccination BID-ness and been ready to have a full season of college football and tailgating, but you know that already.)

I'm giddy for the start of college football nonetheless. (Side note: The Webster person who combined all the small words to make "nonetheless" one word did the Lord's work. That is all.)

It's game week, friends. There will be actual games this weekend, including Illinois — better than most will expect — and UConn, which likely will be as bad as we remembered.

Two things this morning as we explore all things college football on these days heading into the season.

First, if you are interested in betting in your state, look for some of the offers and deals available. Trust me on this.

If you are a regular DraftKings player, fine. But there are a slew of offers out there that offer monster odds at a variety of other sites for new users.

And if I know anything it's that the house will eventually win, and the more options you have — especially on their dime — the better.

In fact, I wrote over the weekend on A2 that Tennesseans have already bet more than $1 billion in 2021 legally and the state gets 20% of the revenue, so it has collected more than $24 million in taxes.

Someone asked about my math, and it got me thinking about the breakdown. Here was my response:

"There has been $1 billion wagered in 2021 in Tennessee total. The state taxes what its online partners like FanDuel and DraftKings collect in revenue — the money bettors lose. So if that number is north of $24 million (times 5), that means the state betting houses have won $120 million more than they have paid. Which means, if my simple math is right — remember I went to Auburn — that the online betting houses have won roughly $560 million and the Tennessee bettors have won $440 million."
More bullets in the gun means more chances to hit, right?

And speaking of betting, and this will start as soon as this year, but look for there to be college football — and even multiple games — on TV every night that is not Monday or Sunday.

Book that — and you know why.

 

This and that

— Says here the Celtics are going to retire Kevin Garnett's jersey. Hey, Spy, did KG do enough to hang in the rafters with Bird, Bill and the boys?

— How nasty is the race between the Giants and the Dodgers? Well, the Giants went 7-3 over their last 10 and their lead was whittled to 2.5 after the Dodgers went 9-1 over that span.

— Apparently "love letters" from prospective home buyers are considered a no-no in the state of Oregon, which has outlawed the practice because of the possibility of racial discrimination. So there's that. From the Yahoo story: "Starting in January, a real estate agent must reject any communication that would reveal the buyer's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or familial status." What's the first offense for "love letter" writing? No pens for a week? And how smooth must everything be running in Oregon for a state legislature to take a hard stance on such a tiny loophole, all things considered?

— We talk about the misuse of federal funds, especially in terms of the COVID handouts that have been rubber stamped by President Biden for far too many, and this is why it's overly important. When you are passing out funds to the masses — whether they choose not to work and cash the extra benefits or do not need the windfall — you are left short when real issues reach critical status. Take the eviction moratorium, which was started very early in the pandemic more than 16 months ago. Now, despite all the extra funds — funds that folks have used on goodness knows what — there are millions behind on their rent. That's sad. What's also sad is the property owners who have to watch as countless folks choose not to pay rent because of the moratorium, leaving plenty of people on both sides of the rental equation in dire straits.   

— Speaking of golf, the final round of the PGA event got pushed to today because of the weather in the Northeast. Hooray for Monday golf. Will cut into my "Law & Order" time, though. Also, speaking of golf, former Baylor School and UTC star Stephan Jaeger made a 1 on the par-3 fourth hole Sunday. He finished tied for fourth at the Korn Ferry at Boise event as that tour's playoffs got underway. Yes, Jaeger has his Tour card for next year, but winning the Korn Ferry points title after the playoffs carries an exemption into The Players. So there's that.

— Morgan Wallen is releasing a new single — well, new to non-fallen listeners — and trying to redirect his once-soaring music career. Here's more. And know this friends: If (and that's a huge if, and it's his own fault for sure) but if the taped slur had not happened, this single — "Sand in My Boots" — would have had a multi-week run at No. 1. And likely only would have been displaced by another Wallen song from Dangerous. 

 

Today's questions

Multiple choice Monday turns to the obvious. Your Atlanta Braves.

Who is the most responsible for the success this year?

— Freddie Freeman

— Brian Snitker

— Alex Anthopoulos

As for today, Aug. 23, let's review.

On this day 25 years ago, Osama bin Laden officially declared war on the U.S. soldiers occupying the Holy Land.

William Wallace died on this day in 1305.

River Phoenix would have been 51 today. Kobe Bryant would have been 43. Both of those dudes could have flipped their names and been fine.

Speaking of the Garnett news, I believe it's a very rare instance for players to have their numbers retired by more than one franchise. Thoughts?

Rushmore of players who deserve to have numbers hanging in the rafters of two (or more) franchises? Go.

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