Weekend winners and losers (non-Madness division)
Winner: Mic-ed up Todd Frazier of the Pirates. Or remember when Freddie Freeman did it and talked through scoring from first on a bloop double? Sure, it's not for everyone, but for the guys comfortable doing it, baseball players communicating with the announcers are excellent. They are insightful, funny, and a great way to fill the dead time of a baseball game. It would be great in golf too.
Loser: Scott Frost. The Nebraska alum and head football coach has been a dud on the field. Now it appears he is either a hypocrite or a coward in terms of scheduling. Remember last season, when Frost and Nebraska tried to get crafty and schedule UTC as a replacement game? It was part of his drive to get in as many games as possible, even pushing Frost to say that his team would play in Uzbekistan if needed. Well, anyplace other than Norman, Oklahoma, apparently. Frost is trying to wiggle out of the tail-whipping scheduled to honor the 50th-anniversary of the 'Game of the Century.'
Winner: Of course Alabama football gets the nation's best high school running back. Of course it does. Forget best football coach ever — and yes, Intern Scott will send in Whosehisboots, the UNC soccer coach, and whatever — considering the stakes, the competition and all of it, Saban > every other college coach who ever picked up a whistle.
Loser: The announcer on the NFHS streaming service from the Oklahoma state girls' high school basketball tournament. Late last week, as one team collectively took a knee during the anthem, one of the announcers for the online broadcast said, "F#$% them, I hope they lose." But wait, it gets worse. Later the announcer, clearly not aware the mic was hot and clearly a racist said, "F-ing N-bombs, I hope they get their (bleep) kicked" but did not make OK for a family interweb conversation. And it still took another turn. Over the weekend, said announcer, Matt Rowan, released a statement saying he was embarrassed and disappointed. Well, duh. He also blamed his racist and hateful speech on — wait for it — his sugar spiking because of his Type 2 diabetes. Seriously. (Side note: And the story also had tangents. Apparently a story in The Oklahoman named the wrong NFHS streaming announcer before retracting that story. Man, imagine being the innocent dude and then someone Googles you and poof, here's this newspaper story saying you said this.)
Winner: Everything about The Players this weekend. The course was perfect. The fans were noticeable and much appreciated. The golf was great. (Yes, that Bryson top-20 bet was an easy cash.) And the champ was always likable Justin Thomas, who has moved past his recent slur on a hot mic earlier this year quite swimmingly. We like to drop lists around these parts, and frequently note that the company you keep on these lists tells you a great deal about the quality of the list and quality of the current player to join said list. For example, if Thomas' win put him on a list with several golfers that included fine players like Fred Funk and Mark McCumber and anyone other alliterative golfers you can name, well, that's all well and good. But Thomas became just the fourth player to have 14 or more PGA Tour wins before turning 28. The others are Johnny Miller, some cat named Tiger and some monster named the Golden Bear. Fine company, young sir.
Loser: Uh, UT football, you need to be winning a lot more than this to be able to have dudes getting in trouble with the law. It's like Crash says — and yes, about any problem in the world can be explored through a Crash Davis quote and almost assuredly made better. Like Crash told Nuke, "Your shower shoes have fungus on them. When you win 20 in the Show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the Show, however, it means you're a slob." You know the rules. Here' Paschall on the UT football players running afoul of Johnny Law.
Winners: Drew Brees. For a guy who has heard his entire life he's too short to play quarterback, a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame career has to feel especially sweet. Brees announced his retirement over the weekend, ending his career with the Saints. He's among the leaders in almost every meaningful passing category there is and likely is the greatest offensive player never to win an MVP award.
Loser: Whomever with the Grammys made the decision to not do more in the memorial segment for Eddie Van Halen. Little Richard gets a two-song medley and Kenny Rogers and John Prine get tributes from Lionel Richie and Brandi Carlisle respectively, but Eddie just gets his guitar silhouetted on stage? PUH-lease. Side note: Hey, I like the conversations about equality we've had recently, and while race gets most of the discussion, I am for all of the meaningful ways we can treat everyone better. With that caveat covered — and yes, I know Spy quit watching awards shows when Letterman quit hosting the Oscars — and maybe I'm the only one who watched most of the Grammys, but there was hubbub about whether John Mayer should be at the Grammys because of his history of 'misogyny.' And yes, Mayer has had several high-profile relationships with high-profile stars that have been much publicized. But, in our conversations about equal treatment, and what we can do to better treat the women in our society, how is a two-song strip club set as the centerpiece of the entire show for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion advancing that conversation?
Thankful for the Madness
It's Monday, and we breakdown the winners and the losers, and there was so much going on this weekend we felt we had to have a college basketball and non-college basketball section. Right? Right.
So here are the winners from a college basketball weekend that was equal parts joyous, entertaining and downright profitable. (Raise your hand if you got on Tech at +1000 to win the ACC tournament. Anyone? Just me? OK.)
> All of us. Much was made about the loss of the Madness last year, and I did not realize how much it was missed until getting reintroduced to the craziness this weekend. It was great, and I watched more college hoops this weekend than any non-NCAA tournament weekend of my life. And yes, we'll be doing our first-out, last-in March Madness madness. The rules are easy: First No. 1 seed to get bounced, last double-digit seed in the draw. Post them in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions?
> Josh Pastner. Pastner's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets became one of the chief storylines of the weekend as they won their first ACC tournament title since 1993. Not afraid to tell you as someone who grew up a) loving college hoops and b) within 20 minutes from the Tech Dome, this made me smile. (And yes, the +1000 taste before the tournament did not hurt either.)
> Speaking of Pastner, the college coaches revenge tour had to feel pretty sweet this weekend too. There was Pastner winning as Memphis still is trying to find strong footing. There was Rick Pitino getting Iona to the dance as Louisville and Kentucky sit this one out, too. You know the rules. Here's Weeds with a home run start to my favorite week of his writing year. Weeds crushes the tournament like few others. Squabble all you want with his pick of Bama winning it all — that said, if the Tide is making 3s, no one wants a piece of them — and we all know him picking UT for the Final Four is the mother of all reverse jinx. But this week — this tournament — is the briar patch to Weeds' Br'er Rabbit.
> Oregon State, and the super fan who put $150 down on the Beavers winning the Pac-12 title. Well, we know how it turned out. Oregon State is dancing with the automatic bid for winning the conference tournament, and the preseason pick to finish last cashed in at +10,000, which means that fan/bettor took home a tidy $150K with the tournament triumph.
> Gonzaga. Yes, the Zags are unbeaten and are chasing history. Yes, they earned the top overall seed. But buckets of buckets and barrels of back-slapping, this may be the most pristine path to the promised land since Dorothy followed that bright yellow-brick road. The 2 in Gonzaga's bracket is a team the Zags whipped by double digits. The 3 and the 4 seeds have been dealing with COVID issues.
> Syracuse. What? How are they in this field. What a crock. Now you're telling me that Syracuse is not in the play-in round? What? And it gets arguably the weakest 3 in West Virginia and certainly the weakest 2 in Houston. Man, Jim Boeheim must have some compromising photos of some NCAA bigwigs on his iPhone.
> John Shulman. Yeah, it's not the big dance, but the former Mocs and McCallie coach and generally all-around good egg is doing his thing very well with Alabama-Hunstville. Kudos, Coach.
> Michigan. Two weeks ago I thought Juwan Howard's bunch was playing as well as anyone in the country. A couple of defeats and the loss of 3-point gunner Isaiah Livers puts a once-promising postseason push in peril. Plus, after losing in the Big Ten semis, Michigan got the last 1 seed and easily the toughest march of any of the top-seeded teams.
> Josh Pastner. His team has been white-hot for the better part of a month, and it got a 9 seed against a dangerous Loyola-Chicago in round one? What? is this the seeding committee being so mad that Duke's not in the field that it punished the Jackets? Tech has won eight straight — and most of those have been overly impressive — and it's reward is a scary 8 with Illinois waiting in round 2. Boooooooooo, committee. For shame.
> The tournament. Yes, we're all giddy it's back. But we're diehards. This will be the least-watched tournament in a long time and possibly ever. Do you normally fill out a bracket? Will you play one this year? My family normally does a slew of them in the TFP office pool — heck I have run it at the TFP for going on two decades — and I'm not sure we'll do one this year or not. Heck, I'm not sure the TFP office pool will happen, because to be honest, it's been so long since I've been to my desk, I'm not sure where the office is.
> Anyone complaining that Duke did not get in. That's not a tournament team in the eye test or by resume. The only thing that even drew interest was the name on the front of the jersey, and that should be meaningless. And how about that flip-flop form the AD over the weekend. You know it went down something like this. Hit it. Duke announces its out of the ACC tourney with the COVID. AD, seeing that the resume stinks and there's COVID and all the rest, says, "Our season is over." Coach K gets wind of that, realizes the AD spoke out of turn, uses the Obi-Wan, "These are not the droids you're looking for" trick and a day later, Duke announces that, yes, it would be open to the tournament after all. Move along. Move along.
> Belmont. Hey, they lost in the title game of a one-bid league. That's the system and everyone knows it. But how a 26-win team does not get a sniff from the NIT is just wrong.
This and that
— OK, wow, that turned into a whole lot of line items and this and that type of stuff. So it goes, I suppose.
— Just going to leave this right here. Marvin Hagler was an absolute warrior. Rest in peace Mr. Marvelous.
— And just like that, the Saints went from annual contenders to being the Aints we remember form our childhood. Drew Brees is gone, and in a cap-crunch space, the Saints extend Taysom Hill for four years and $140 million. (Side note: This was not among the losers, because when you peel back the layers of this onion of an offer, Hill's deal is voidable after this year and it frees up $75 million in cap space.) Still, the thought of Taysom Hill being a QB who is slotted to make $35 million per year makes my head hurt.
— Speaking of golf, wowser, Rory opened up after missing the cut by 10 shots Friday. This is a rare and revealing amount of real honesty from a PGA superstar. Back story: If you hear elite golfers — be it in post-round interviews or in random clips with caddies on the course — they never take blame. That's not the character flaw it would be for the rest of the world. It's a defensive mechanism that golfers use because if they believe they are fallible and doubt creeps into their swing thoughts, they are in deep poop. It's why you hear, "I made a good swing, the wind came up" or "How did that not go in" or even caddies taking blame and players saying, "We" a whole bunch. So for Rory McIlroy to drop this out there after looking more like me than Rory in the first two rounds of The Players, well, this is a real look behind the curtain. I commend his honesty; I feel for the state of his game.
— Sweet buckets, Texas lawmaker introduces an anti-abortion bill that could include the death penalty for the mother. Seriously. I wish I was kidding.
— And while we are plowing through the crazy files of divided state legislatures, here's news that Idaho is going to cut ties with the Powerball it offers when reports say that Australia could use some of the money it generates from the same Powerball to fund anti-gun measures. So, the state of Idaho, which was one of the first to offer Powerball — because let's face it, what else is there to do in Idaho? Potato anyone? — is going to shut off a revenue source that generates millions for public education because a foreign country is not abiding by our second amendment? What? Perfect. Hey, I'm all for the second amendment — I don't have a "Pry my gun from my cold dead fingers" bumper sticker, but I own guns and believe checked and trained Americans have every right to own guns — but seriously, Idaho, you're going to short change your school kids because of a philosophical difference with Crocodile Dundee?
— I understand the merit and the meaning, but I'm not a fan of the proposed college football overtime changes. The measure would mean if the score is still tied after three overtime, the game would be decided by, for a lack of a better description, a two-point-conversion off. So after three overtimes, it's straight to nothing but two-point plays, which considering how much they are used over the course of a normal game, would be less practical than a punting competition. I get it, those eight-overtime affairs can be dozens of extra plays on exhausted bodies. Here's my tweak: Move the starting spot back, at least to the 40 and maybe even midfield, but at least somewhere that even if you don't get a first down, it's a whale of a FG try. Because for all the bellyaching about the NFL's overtime and how the coin flip determines so much, I contend that winning the flip and getting to play defense in college is almost as valuable. Among the other rule changes speculated in the link above is the much-needed addressing of players faking injuries to slow down up-tempo offenses. As rules committee chair David Shaw, the Stanford coach noted, this is a rule that tries to address ethical and unethical conduct.
— We have always tried to avoid the scoreboard watching in terms of the COVID, because at its very core, dealing with a not-seen-in-a-century pandemic does not come with a playbook. And a lot of folks threw a lot of grenades at the way Florida handled its BID-ness during the trying times of COVID. Over the weekend, even the far-left leaning New York Times looked at several of the positives of Florida's approach, which weigh very favorably compared to the fallouts in New York and California. Interesting stuff.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
March Madness winners and losers. Go.
As for the rest, I am curious about your bracket habits. Did you used to submit one? Will you do one this year?
As for today, March 15, it would have been my parents 52nd wedding anniversary. So there's that. (Side note: Dad was late to the wedding because Davidson-UNC went down to the wire in the NCAA tournament. Pop loved the tournament more than anyone I have ever met. Well, he and Weeds that is.)
Some pretty cool history today. Caesar was killed today. The Godfather movie premiered on this day in 1972. The Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team on this day in 1869. The first interweb dominion name — symbolics.com — was registered on this day in 1985.
As for a Rushmore, today is the Ides of March, and they always say Beware the Ides of March.
Does that one make the 'Beware' phrases Rushmore? Go and remember the First-out, Last-in contest.