Sticky situation

Baseball has forever been a game for cheaters.

Right or wrong, stealing signs, corking bats, PEDs, you name it, if baseball players can get away with skirting the rules, then bully for you.

Unless of course someone flips a bat after hitting a 500-foot homer. Then that gets a fastball between the shoulders.

Because breaking the rules is cool, but violating the unwritten rules could get you killed, right Tony LaRussa.

(Side note: One of my fraternity brothers and I entered the AKA spades tournament in college. There were 500-plus Black people in the auditorium at Foy Union on the Saturday of the event and two white dudes — Ted and me. The first rule on the chalkboard was 'It ain't cheatin' unless you get caught.' Well, my grandfather, who after serving in the Navy found a career on the trains across the South. He worked for the train company, but he made a good side-living playing cards. He taught me a few tricks, and if you don't cut the cards when I'm dealing, well, you're going to struggle. So, when I read the rules of the card tournament, I told Ted to hang on and keep quiet. So we start rolling and before we know it, we're in the semifinals of this tournament that was $20 to enter and had a pot of more than $1,000. Of course, we become the fan favorites as the only two white dudes in the room as all of the AKA guys and their girls are heckling their buddies for losing to us. And Ted gets excited, and says, "Man we can win this." I pause and look around and tell him, "Brother, right now we're a fun story that everyone will remember. But that changes if we win this thing." So I tanked the semifinals match and we walked out of there with a great story. And the forever knowledge that it ain't cheatin' unless you get caught.)

But baseball is now faced with a growing realization and it has three very real problems from it.

First, baseball is infected with Eddie Harris syndrome. ("You put snot, on the ball?") That's right, several major media outlets are reporting that the avalanche of Ks and the scarcity of runs is at least in part because of a vast majority of pitchers doctoring the baseball with a sticky substance that allows spin rates to increase.

Umps have confiscated hats. Managers are talking about it to the press. Heck, the antiquated avenue that is Sports Illustrated is even writing about it.

Suffice it to say, this is not a secret anymore. And baseball — with it's avalanche of no-hitters, it's record-setting K rate and it's record-low batting average — is worse off for it. The lack of offense makes an already slow game downright snail-like

Which leads us to the second problem. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is a clown. Period.

His involvement in anything makes everything worse. The on-the-field product is as bad as it has been in my lifetime — and the TV numbers detail that statement — yet Manfred makes headlines by moving the All-Star game to Denver rather than addressing the state of his languishing product.

Somewhere Mark Emmert is holding a signed photo of Manfred and is whispering, "I love you Rob. You make me look bold and decisive."        

And finally, amid all of this controversy, baseball's biggest issue is that no one really seems to care. Sure, the Astros sign stealing got a rise out of America because it was pre-COVID and it violated our sensibilities.

But why does that cheating get us hot and bothered and this cheating is as controversial as whether Miss Becky brings baked beans or coleslaw to Sunday's after church meal.

Arguably the biggest statement any of us can make about the dying state of baseball is the apathy amid this scandal that is happening as we speak.


Flags flying

OK, there are a few verbs that really only go with certain words. They're linked, rightly or wrongly, like Abbott and Costello or Frodo and Sam.

Billow is to smoke like wreak is to havoc. There are others of course. (Side question: What's yours?)

Also on that list is unfurl and flag. (Although unfurl and sail get along nicely too,)

I thought about the unfurled flags when I saw the story in today's TFP about Scott DesJarlais and Co. backing a bill aimed at preventing any U.S. embassy or consular post from flying — unfurling? — any flag other than Old Glory.

My first thought was, "Wow, our country is in much better shape than I thought if we're wasting too much time on what is on the pole outside of the embassy in Iceland."

Yes, DesJarlais, by most accounts seems more shady than the spot Red found the cigar box Andy left him in Shawshank. And yes, he's one of the co-sponsors on the bill with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and when you are in the same column in the same conversation as MGT, well, you need to double check your footing.

But this one is easy. And while the politicization of everything in our culture these days makes everything a minefield, DesJarlais and his cohorts are spot on.

Yes, the talking points are about Pride flags that show support of LGBTQ community or Black Lives Matter flags, which inflame their opponents and galvanize the base of DesJarlais and MGT.

But the simple baseline of this is a foundation of solid reasoning. Do we really want any of our embassies or outposts supporting causes or positions that could be viewed as controversial — no matter how benign or well-intentioned — on foreign soil?

What happens if a Pride flag is viewed as an act of aggression in an extreme Islamic country that views homosexuality like AOC views MGT?

It's kind of like the conversations we've had about allowing social justice messages on uniforms. If you are going to support any, do you not need to support all the sentiments and feelings and beliefs, especially if you are talking about a building that represents all of the U.S. of A.?



NBA, game time

Wow. Just wow.

The Brooklyn Nets punched the Bucks in the antlers and grabbed a 2-0 lead with a dominating 125-86 win that was not even as close as the 39-point final margin. (Nerd alert: There have been 430 instances where an NBA team has grabbed a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. The team with 0 in the 2-0 equation has rallied back to win the series just 28 times.)

It was overpowering, and should serve as a scary notice for the other seven teams still trying to reach the NBA mountaintop.

To wit:

> Brooklyn led by 17 after the first quarter. Seventeen;

> Brooklyn made half it's 42 3-point tries;

> Kevin Durant's unstoppable roadshow dropped 32 — on 12 of 18 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3 — in an amazingly efficient 33 minutes, and he did a lion's share of that against former defensive player of the year Giannis Antetokounmpo;

> And maybe most impressively, Brooklyn delivered that beatdown with James Harden in street clothes.

Gang, there's a lot of playoffs left, but it's mighty tough to envision anyone beating that Nets bunch four times in seven games.


This and that

— Here's today's A2 column on CPD Chief David Roddy announcing his retirement. Hmmmmmmmm. Something smells fishy here. Thoughts?

— You know the rules. Here's TFP sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis on the readjusted high school football regions in Tennessee.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Saban's extension. And as an Auburn graduate, the only thing I can offer here is the same thing Flo Evans said in "Good Times" when James died. "Damn, damn, damn."

— Pat Sajak's dog died.

— NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Just No. Owen Wilson says they will start shooting Wedding Crashers 2 this summer. Cue Florida Evans again.


Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning, Ern.

True or false, there has never been a great sequel to a comedy.

True or false, the Falcons should blow the whole thing up and rebuild in earnest.

True or false, David Roddy was forced to retire/resign.

True or false, you have the Nets over the field in these NBA playoffs.

True or false, Nick Saban will be coaching Alabama into the 2030s.

As for today, June 8, let's review.

On this day in 1920, Edd Roush was kicked out of a MLB game for delay of game. He fell asleep in centerfield during a lengthy argument between manager and umpire and Roush got booted.

On this day in 1942, Bing Crosby recorded "Silent Night." Well-played Bing. Well-played indeed.

On this day in 1955, the Dodgers optioned Tommy Lasorda off their roster, ending his career in the majors. Wise decision, considering they optioned him for some left-hander named Sandy Koufax.

It's also national best friends day.

Rushmore of 'friends' and be creative.