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Jay Greeson

Let's handle our business first. Deal? Deal.

Rushmore of left fielders: Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Yaz. (For those wondering, I had to double check the numbers, because Stan Musial would have been here, but did you know that Musial played more career games at first base than he did in left field? It was 1,016 at first and 930 in left. And he played more games in right and center combined than games in left. So I'm not sure we can call Stan the Man a left fielder by trade.)

Rushmore of Rip: R.I.P, Rip Torn, who was great as Patches in Dodgeball and even better as Larry Sanders' producer, rip cord and a rip, as in a baseball crushed into the gap.

Rushmore of Howard: Stern, Cosell, director Ron, and Howard's Hustlin' Tigers.

Rushmore of snow: Snowman — both the kids creation and Jerry Reed's character in Smokey and the Bandit, Chrissie Snow (Susanne Somers character in Three's Company) and Sno-Cone.  

You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the wave of Tide players leaving early for the NFL. All five of those dudes could be first-rounders gang.

And while we're here, two more non-mailbag items caught my eye form Thursday.

The first was Chuck Barkley on the TNT coverage, showing the full spectrum of what it's like to shoot from the lip. (I vaguely remember that jagged edge of saying what you think and letting the chips fall where they may.) Barkley scored belly laughs with the observations that "Kevin Durant went from the Splash Brothers to the Dribble Brothers." Barkley's other social-media-trending quip was far less astute and on the opposite end of the approval rating, saying that NBA and NFL players and coaches should be moved to the front of the vaccine line because of how much they pay in taxes. Ah, Chuck.

Second, well, that didn't take long. Biden announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan design. Sure, it has designs on speeding up the vaccine. It also has another $1,400 stimulus check to Americans. It also drew praise from Nancy Pelosi for including liberal priorities like moving the minimum wage to $15 a hour. Uh, gang, how exactly are you helping small business owners — especially those who own restaurants, bars or a mom and pop store of some kind — by jacking his or her payroll through the roof? Egad. Here we go. Oh yeah, Biden said his relief bill will be paid with borrowed money.

Oy vey.

To the mailbag and great job this week.

From Scott:

Why no coverage of the college football awards last week, Auburn boy? You still butt hurt?

Yeah that's what I thought. RTR

Scott,

First, happy new year. Second, I have always used 'butthurt' as one-word, and I could even see it hyphenated in some scenarios. But I think as two words, it's more of physical description like, "Or quarterback got sacked and thrown to the ground and got his butt hurt."

That said, the phrase is up there pretty high on my preference scale.

As for discussing Alabama, while I may not have mentioned the Home Depot awards one-by-one, and Alabama understandably and rightly cleaned up on the hardware at the Home Depot (Spyhmmmmmmm?), it's going to be tough to convince an impartial person that my praise for Alabama this week has not been overflowing.

So, while Auburn boy certainly fits, let's leave the partisan discussions where they belong, and keep them in our politics. Did I mention Biden's about to borrow $2 trillion?

From Ernie:

I have been reading all the 5-10 and A2's.  Great as usual. 

Has the virus caused a real paradigm shift in crowd attractions like sports, concerts, etc.? Is a 100,000 crammed stadium  now going to be a rare event? With TV numbers down in all sports, during a time of mandates regarding going out to anything, what is that saying?

Ernie,

Thanks as always for the kind words and for reading. (Here's today's A2, and it even includes a rare European Vacation quote, so there's that.) 

I'm not sure when we'll get back to complete sell-outs and full capacity, to be honest Ernie.

Because when an outdoor venue the size and space of Augusta National is planning limited numbers compared to a packed course of 40,000 or so, how are we going to get 100,000 on top of each other in Jerry World any time soon?

The questions certainly outnumber the hard answers right now, but we can offer best guesses.

First, I think there will be some kind of certification required of vaccination, at least at first, to go to these large gatherings and events.

Even as pro-vaccine as I am, it's hard to see a way an American government can mandate shots for everyone. But private for-profit businesses can, and that's what sports is. And they will have to address the fears of so many about reconvening, even outdoors.

Whether that's certification of vaccination, whether it's continued distanced seating, or something not yet discussed, who knows. (Side question: The distanced seating at various sporting events has been kind of scatter-gunned, no? Because it felt like some college games had half capacity and some were a practice. Also, if you are talking about the lack of fans are owners then butts-in-seats hurt? Discuss.)

Think about the fear about gathering and the safety measures put in place after 9/11.

I do know this, though, there is no measure the leagues — pro and major college — will not explore first, to get people back into their seats and eventually, getting full houses back into their stadiums.

Because the ticket sales are the margin of profit — and currently, the reason for the losses — big and small for those organizations. TV money pays the bills and covers most if not all of the overhead, depending on the league and said TV deal.

And the two teetering most on the edge form everything I have gathers are non-football college sports and the NHL. Another year without March Madness would be crippling for a college athletic landscape where even the big-shift programs like THE Ohio State and Clemson are feeling it. (Side question: If you are feeling it in the wallet, are you more butt-cheek hurt or butt-pocket hurt? Discuss.)

As for the NHL, the number I saw is that the hockey owners make north of 50 percent of their revenue — revenue, not profit folks — from ticket sales. That number is by far the highest among the notable major sports leagues in the U.S.

I'll ask the group, if I gave you tickets to your favorite team in this upcoming season, would you take them? What stipulations would you need from the venue or the organizers?  

I'll also ask this: What do you think the percentage of folks in the stands for the NFL opener next September will be? A third? Half? Full? Interested in the thoughts of our big-brained readers.

As for the TV numbers, Ernie, I have been consistently surprised by the dwindling numbers across the board. Even the NFL is down, it's just not down as much.

There are some easy and familiar rationalizations for this, and that's not even mentioning the political commentary or the 'protests' or social issues or kneeling. Do I think that plays a part? Sure, for some folks, but I don't think it has anywhere near the impact folks are trying to pin on those causes and decisions.

Heck, golf was down every bit as much as basketball and baseball and Justin Thomas is not kneeling on the first tee, and Rory does not have 'Equality' across his sweater vest.

More viewing options. Less compelling products — looking at you super-top-heavy college football, and you MLB with your K, K, dinger, BB, K half-innings — and the lack of atmosphere all play a part.

The biggest fear for the leagues has to be that despite giving the time to watch and  even with the increased access to legalized sports wagering, people have tuned sports out — for whatever of the above reasons — and realized that the don't need them as much as they thought they did.

From Back-up QB:
 
Lots of talk about Saban's greatness this week.  I cringe, as a Johnny Vols diehard loyalist, to say I feel like he is the GOAT.  
 
However, I heard two things today that made me ponder. When I read your projected totals for Ted Williams, if he had not gone to war on multiple occasions, it made me think about another legendary sports figure who went to war in his prime — plus, a guy actually brought this up on Paul Finebaum this afternoon — so, I'll throw it out it there: everyone is comparing Saban to Bear Bryant, but where does General Robert Neyland land in the college coaching GOAT conversation?  
 
The greatness of General Neyland is undeniable. The caller on Finebaum quoted overall and SEC win percentages that showed Neyland won at a greater clip than either Saban or Bryant.  Of course, there is the Neyland-coached Vols team who did not allow a point all season.  If you take away the "gaps" in his coaching career when he went off to war to do that General thing, does he set a bar so high that it might not be reached?  Or am I just looking through my orange-colored glasses?  Yes, I know it is nearly impossible to compare his era to the modern game and the different schedules played.
 
Is Neyland an overlooked or underrated coaching legend?  Assuming Saban and Bryant are on both an SEC and overall College Football Rushmore, does Neyland join them?  I'm sure you've done these Rushmores before, but humor me and re-visit.
 
Thanks for the 5-at-10 and continue to miss you on the radio! 

Back-up QB,

Such a great question and a great point too.

Absolutely General Neyland is overlooked by the casual college football fan, in large part, because of the number of titles when comparing him to the all-timers.

The innovations and the numbers for Neyland are mind-blowing to those unaware of this accomplishments.

His approach to embrace find speed rather than the traditional size and strength, was light years ahead of his day, and a lot of historians credit the General with being the first coach to seriously incorporate film study into preparation. (Side note: I know a lot of high school assistants who are mumbling curses under their breath because of that innovation, but there you go.)

And your point a bout Neyland leaving for WWII in the middle of his prime is spot on, because before going to fend of Hitler, Neyland had Tennessee rolling at a Sabam-Like level. From 1938-40, UT was 31-2 overall, 18-0 in the SEC and finished second, second and fourth in the AP polls.

Yes, UT went 9-2 when Neyland returned in 1946, but dipped greatly in 1947-48 to a combined 9-9-2. (Side question: What age is the rough divider of knowing instantly what that third number is without wondering?)

So if Neyland does not get called by his Uncle Sam, and UT maintains that dominance through the 1941-45 seasons, it likely gets to 200 wins and maybe adds another natty, which would certainly help the all-time, all-conference résumé and candidacy.

As for a Rushmore, I think Neyland's easily on the SEC football coaching top-four, placing third just ahead of Spurrier. (Sorry Vince, dem's the breaks.)

All-time, that's where the gaps are too great, because again Saban and Bear are far left in that one too. (Side question: How in Blue Hades does Nick Saban not have more national coach of the year awards? He and LeBron — and potentially Patrick Mahomes very soon — have reached a level of such expected greatness that voters unfairly look for reasons not to vote for them for annual awards and search for reasons and surprisingly over-achieving candidates to vote for. And since that's clear for even an Auburn boy to see, shouldn't we change the name of the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award to 'The national best coach not named Nick Saban' or the 'NBA's Most Valuable Player other than King James' all things considered.)  

Knute Rockne, who was a RIIIII-diculous 105-12-5 with three titles before dying in a plane crash, is certainly there. The last spot is among Frank Leahy or Woody Hayes. Maybe a Bud Wilkerson or a John McKay. Heck what Urban Meyer has done at every stop has been amazing, too.

Great question, and thanks for playing along my man.

From Patrick:

If I had to  pick a non No. 1 seed to get to the Super Bowl, I'd say Bills, though losing Zack Moss hurts.

But what's a better matchup that NFL Films will be showing for the next centuries — Brees vs. Rodgers at Lambeau for the NFC Championship or TB12 vs. ARod for the NFC Championship?

And whose legacy has more to lose or more to be burnished — Brees or Rodgers — over the next two weeks? I think the Brady kid's standing in history is safe.

Patrick,

Excellent queries my man.

While the Saints and the Packers are the two best teams in the NFC, a Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady matchup is easily the dream, for next week and for study in the next generation.

And think of it this way, what happens if Brady topples Brees, Rodgers and then Mahomes in order for a seventh ring? Sweet 30-for-30s, that one writes itself.

And if Brady wins it all, he has to walk into the sunset right? I mean that's a Teddy Ballgame, career-walk-off-homer, no?

And more importantly, the prospect of a Rodgers/Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes Super Bowl has to leave CBS execs quite tingly in special places. Regardless of the current TV trends a Chiefs-Packers or Chiefs-Bucs Super Bowl would do huge numbers.

As for the legacy question, Rodgers has the most to lose and Brees has the most to gain.

Everyone knows my love of AA-Rod. I believe he's the best to ever spin it. Yes, Brady has had the greatest career, but Rodgers' does things that I seriously can't believe. (Side note: At this point we are contractually obligated to mention that throw along the sidelines a few years ago in a playoff game in Dallas to Jared Cook, was simply put the best NFL pass I've ever seen. Side note on the side note: Mini-Rushmore of best NFL passes off the top of my head: That one, Montana to Clark — again against Dallas — is there, the throw Steve Young made to T.O. to beat the Packers in the playoffs back in the day, and Manning to Tyree, if for nothing but the history of it.)

A second Super Bowl title puts him very much in the conversation of being arguably the best to ever do it and then being right there with the greatest careers ever.

Brees' role in this GOAT conversation and playoff drama is intriguing to me, because he'll finish no worse than 2 — at least for the next several years — in almost every major passing category all time. He'll forever have the amazing stat that there have been 12 5,000-yard passing seasons in the history of the NFL, and Brees has five of them. Yes five.

But, if Rodgers place behind Brady is LeBron vs. MJ, Brees' place is Wilt vs. Kareem or Bill Russell, because Brees has the one Super Bowl — and that was more because of Manning's mistake and a great onside kick call than Brees' brilliance — and has never won an MVP.

Great question, and with that, some NFL picks. (And JTally, did you see we went 1-1 on college picks against yesterday, but the good thing was the miss happened first so we doubled the bet on Belmont and still made coin. We'll have some college hoops picks for the weekend around lunch. Deal? Deal.)

We are teetering at .500 because, that's been the whole picking season for us. But pickers gotta pick, and in honor of that, here's personal favorite Willie Nelson with Last Thing I Needed — first thing this morning.)

I'll take the Bills minus-2.5, the Browns and 10, Packers minus-6.5, and Brady's Bucs plus-3.5.

Enjoy the weekend friends, and thanks for playing along with the silliness.

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