Weekend winners

America. Because of the ultimate sacrifices of so many — and not just those who gave their lives, but those who were forced to go on when loved ones gave their lives — we get to live in the greatest country in the world. Do we have issues? Yes we do. But there are people sacrificing everything to try to come here because of those brave Americans who sacrificed everything to make this America. Happy Memorial Day friends, and for those that served — thank you.

SEC. Uh, I know it was commonplace to look around and fan the pigskin peacock feathers because, forget it just means more, the SEC simply just did it better. Well, as good as football has been for the last 15 years, the SEC is more dominant in the spring sports. In the softball super regionals over the weekend Alabama and Georgia advanced to the College Softball World Series by beating Kentucky and Florida respectively. LSU and Missouri gave the SEC six of the final 16 softball teams playing. And as we await the full field for the run to the College World Series in Omaha, SEC baseball may be even more dominant. The league was awarded seven of the 16 regional host sites, including one in Knoxville. The Big 12, the Pac 12 and the ACC combined had seven regional host sites. At this pace, the College World Series may need to be moved from Omaha to Oxford or Opelika or Oak Ridge for travel purposes.  

Clay Travis. Love the man or loathe him, he has crafted a media empire — and was in front of the curve in so many ways, especially social media reaches — that was officially crowned and knighted over the weekend. Travis started Outkick the Coverage roughly a decade ago, and has embraced the controversy and conflict of the modern landscape, and did so even before Trump took it all the way to the White House. Well, forget any thoughts or accusations about his legitimacy, because over the weekend Travis was part of the duo named to fill the most coveted radio opening in the country as he is part of the team to fill Rush Limbaugh's radio slot.

The NBA heavies. Other than the 5th-seeded Hawks manhandling the Knicks, these series are flowing toward the seeding process. The Bucks have swept, and the Sixers are about to. The Nets are up 3-1, as are the Hawks. In the West, the Clippers have come roaring back by realizing that if you triple Luka and wear him down on the defensive end, the Mavs are a rec team when he doesn't have the ball or is not on the floor. Have we reached a place where measuring the championship mettle of every NBA team is not about their Alpha but rather about the stacking of their Beta? The Lakers won last year because their 2 — Anthony Davis — was better than everyone else's 2. And in that logic, when the Nets' offer a C player the levels of Kyrie Irving, well, good luck with that.

Rick Hendrick Racing. Yeah, dude has been on a long and wild ride in NASCAR but for the first time in more than five decades an owner not named Richard Petty owns the most wins in the history of the sport. He got it when Kyle Larson — the driver who about this time a year ago was mired in the depression and dire straits after a racial slur was caught on a hot mic during a NASCAR simulation — dominated Sunday night in Charlotte. 


Weekend losers

Sports media. And this is through no fault of our own. (Which is a mild surprise, considering the lemon heads in this industry who have grandstanded and politicized and finger-pointed on so many non-sports issues over the last 15 months.) We covered the Naomi Osaka decision last week, and the facts and line items that made it everything from selfish to ungrateful to her sport to an insult to actual mental health issues. But her stance is her stance, and for an industry that must be based on freedom — of speech, of opinion — the response from the majors may be just as damaging to the sports media process as Osaka's original proclamation in a lot of ways. Apparently since Osaka's lame announcement of her media blackout/back out, French Open organizers have attempted to contact her to see about her mental health and to see if a compromise could be met. She did not return the efforts of Roland-Garros or the other major championships. She won her opening match and skipped the media obligations and was fined $15,000. Now there are whispers of escalating fines and possible point deductions, defaults and even suspensions. This allows Miss Osaka to become the victim sadly, and we all know that the general public will side with the Devil's All-Stars in a general argument against the media.    

Jordan Spieth. With great power comes great responsibility, Sunday Spieth spit the bit. He was sloppy and let a one-shot lead become a three-shot loss to someone named after a jacket holder. Jason Kokrak prevailed, and it reminded us of the power of the vested interest. And the disappointment that comes with their struggles.

Lakers. Forget repeating. The Lakers with all hands on deck are a tough out because LeBron is still LeBron and the NBA and its broadcast partners still need LeBron. But if they are without a meaningful piece — and Sunday looked like a potentially damaging groin injury to Anthony Davis — they will not survive in a West that is loaded with multiple-star teams that are layers deeper than the defending champs.

Fans and NBA games throwing stuff. Gang, it's not that hard. And when you make Kyrie a sympathetic character, well, that tells you the depths of dirt-baggery where throwing things at players truly ranks.

 The realization of the academic damage the pandemic inflicted on students. Whether it's college eschewing test scores for admittance or Baltimore schools passing kids who failed, COVID's curveball to curriculums everywhere is undeniable. Side note, extended: Call me a conspiracy theorist on this if you want, but I'd expect a lot of learning institutions, both public systems and higher education, to look for fall-out measures and ways to bend the next normal to their advantage. Take the story in the weekend's TFP about Tennessee colleges and universities waiving test scores and admitting high school students with a 3.0 and a teacher recommendation. What a load of crud. A 3.0 and a teacher recommendation? PUH-lease. That's expanding the customer pool — especially in a state with a lottery-sponsored system — at a time when we are wisely realizing that college is not the answer for everyone, and college debt is a problem that we all can see. So, in a time we're having heated and real conversation about our federal government picking up $50,000 or more of student loans, we're actually lowering the requirements for those trying to get into college and waste their time and — if Bernie and Nancy and the Squad had their way — my money — because their JV Tennis coach thinks that 3.1 has lil' Johnnie or Jenny ready for 13th grade? No thanks. In a time when colleges — especially public colleges and universities — have to realize more and more that the debt is not worth the degree. Yes, COVID dropped enrollment for Fall 2020 by 2.5%, but enrollment in Fall 2019 was down too. End of rant.


Time to be right

The leaders of the Atlanta Braves have to know what looms. They have to know.

If the police reports prove correct and the seriousness of the charges accurate about his weekend arrest for domestic violence including strangulation, Marcel Ozuna needs to be released. Forget the money lost and the value his bat once had in the lineup.

He needs to be gone. 

Oh, he'll be gone from the lineup for quite a while even if the Braves kowtow. His fractured fingers — which are in an arm cast which he used to his wife, among other things, over the weekend — had him on the shelf for multiple weeks.

His charges of domestic abuse could lead to a year in jail. National reports have MLB looking at its longest domestic violence suspension to date.  

But, if these allegations are true and the facts verified, the Braves do not need to wait for that for a multitude of reasons.

First, his crimes warrant it. Period. This falls into the consequence culture, friends, and putting your hands on females should never be tolerated but when it reaches felony levels — like Ozuna's did when he was charged with strangulation — there should not be any wiggle room. Especially with that strangulation charge, which advocates have been trying to make felonies in states around the country. Some stats from the Institute for Strangulation Prevention:

> 1 in 4 women will experience violence from their intimate partner;

> 68% of those that experience it will suffer a near-fatal strangulation;

> 9% of those strangled will be pregnant when it happens;

> 38% of those strangled will be choked unconscious and 70% of them believe they are going to be killed.

Yes, Ozuna will have his day in court, but like so many other things in our society, I believe the cockroach theory applies to this one too. Meaning that there's no way Ozuna was caught after his one and only domestic violence incident.

Second, so much of these Braves success is built around chemistry and culture, and if you let a bona fide fraud who seems like a likable and great dude in the clubhouse who becomes a woman-beating brute away from the field, well, sorry, that doesn't fly.

And while we're here, there are a lot of character flaws we can all overlook or rationalize away, you know? Yeah, Jay's a really good dude, but he talks too much. Yeah, Clark is a really a good dude, but man, when the conversation turns to politics. Yeah, Spy is a really good dude, but make sure your rock-n-roll is at acceptable levels.

We all have shortcomings. Hard to recall any rationalizations of, "Yeah Marcel's a great guy to hang around when he's not beating his wife."

And while we're here, if MLB in particular and sports in general want to make a stand in or on an issue, how about this one, huh? Yeah the suspension is looming, but make all contracts voidable for something like this. 

If Kyle Larson can easily be kicked to the curb by every sponsor and team with which he had an agree for dropping an N-bomb while playing a video game, Marcel Ozuna beating and strangling his wife should come with a lot more than a league-suspension, no?  


This and that

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the Vols latest connection with the transfer portal. (This one is going rather than coming.) 

— I was happy to see reports of movie receipts and folks headed back to the box office. 

— Speaking of losing the weekend, here's a social media post on some knuckleheads in Nashville making a buck with a "Not Vaccinated" patch that looks like the gold star that the Nazis made the Jews wear. Buckets, people. Be better than this. 

— So the USC QB commit from Utah is the Gatorade high school football player of the year. I'll ask: The name Jaxson Dart is a great QB name, no? 


Today's questions 

Weekend winners and losers. Go.

As for multiple choice Monday, if forced to pick right now, which is the safest bet to reach the NBA Finals from the East?

> Nets

> Bucks

> 76ers

> Hawks

As for today, May, 31, lots of fun birthdays today.

Clint Eastwood is 91. Yes we've done his Rushmore.

Joe Namath is 78. Tom Berenger (aka Jake Taylor from Major League) is 72, and his Rushmore is better than you may realize. 

Walt Whitman would have been 202 today.

Rushmore of Walt/Walter, go and enjoy the holiday and remember those who served and sacrificed.

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Jay Greeson