Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches warm ups before the College Football Playoff championship football game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Saban enters political fray

I firmly believe every American should have the right to vote.

But I can also, in the same brain and in the next thought, think that every American should expect that every citizen has one vote and every voting cycle is done fairly and without corruption.

We have discussed the importance of phrasing and the value of branding and words.

What if the "Voting Rights Bill" was named the "Voting Integrity Bill" instead?

And here's the worst part, these should not be viewed as opposite goals or political motivations.

As an American, I am against the very idea and any effort to deny any American the access to cast a ballot.

But as an American, in a country that requires a license to catch a fish, I think we should require some form of ID to be a participating and legal part of arguably the most important job shared by Americans — electing our leaders.

But this has turned, like so many other things, into one side or the other. The talking points swinging between racism and water bottles or the ridiculousness of Donald Trump's narcissistic, unfounded and downright shameful continued cries of election fraud. (Side note: The last claim — The Donald saying there was no way he could have lost Arizona because in essence his rallies were so well attended — is comical if it was not so destructive.)

Yeah, we run the gamut around these parts, and you never know what may pop up, but this one has a sports angle too, as Nick Saban, a registered Democrat who normally stays apolitical in a lot of ways, has weighed in on this.

Saban, who normally follows a professional tangent of Michael Jordan's long-quote view of "Republicans buy sneakers too" that could be viewed as "Republicans could be five-star recruits too," would normally prefer to discuss his feelings and give away a defensive game plan than talk politics.

But the GOAT of college coaches and West Virginia native was among the recognizable names that signed a letter asking Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to reverse his stance on the filibuster that has all but stalled the Democrats' "Freedom to Vote" bill.

The letter was also signed by Oliver Luck — a former WV AD — and some other folks with ties to the Mountaineer State and called for Manchin and  "Congress to exercise its constitutional responsibility to enact laws that set national standards for the conduct of federal elections and for decisions that determine election outcomes."      

The voting debate has become too divided in a lot of ways, and it has become too isolated in at least one other. Because beyond the talking point of the merits or demerits of this particular voting bill, consider that above statement. If we are going to crack into the Constitution, start reworking the framers' wishes of separation between state and federal and the importance of checks and balances, well, let's load up and break out the really big pink erasers because there are several items that need to be reviewed, folks.

Beyond that, if, like this letter asks, voting regulations fall under federal control, do you not see the peril of letting whichever controlling party — it's the Democrats now, but that ends in 2022 midterms and how long before the GOP has its turn in charge of the executive and legislative branches? — have that much power over the election process.

More than being a conservative, I believe in the Constitution — with all its dated imperfections — and I believe in local over federal when it comes to most beneficial and impactful leadership, be it whether Jim Coppinger knows better what to do at Enterprise South than Biden or Trump or whatever.

Please, talk more politics, Nick. I'll never ask anyone to stick to sports.

But unlike your amazing and dominating football ways — a collection of decisions and moves over the last 15 years that is without comparison — I disagree with you on this one, sir.


Cooler heads

In this space Monday, we had some harsh words for Dak Prescott, who all but applauded fans for throwing stuff at the referees after the contentious end of the Cowboys' playoff game and season Sunday.

Prescott walked those comments back on social media Tuesday afternoon, as he should have.

But we all make verbal miscues. Well, all of y'all do. But I digress.

I accept Dak's apology, which seemed honest and genuine, especially after an outburst after a season-ending — and possibly franchise-altering — loss that was assuredly fueled by emotion. (Side note: I would have liked it more if Dak has called a news conference and given his statement and taken a question or three rather than send it to the masses via the Twitter. But hey, sign of the times I guess.)

That emotion, in the aftermath, gets more passionate when you look around and see this was by far the Cowboys' best shot to make a run for the foreseeable future.

Yes, they have drafted a couple of inexpensive defensive stars in Micah Parsons and Trayvon Diggs, but the Cowboys are more than $21 million over the projected cap for 2022.

That means, after signing Dak to the big deal he wanted, the Cowboys are likely going to have to part ways with a slew of familiar names to create cap space heading into next season.

And that has nothing to do with the fans or the referees.

Or Twitter, for that matter.    


SEC hoops

The Tuesday night slate gives way to the Wednesday night menu across the league Jay Bilas believes is the best in college hoops.

Quick review:

— Tennessee continued its Nashville success with a 68-60 win over Vandy. Quick review on the first part of our quick review:

Tennessee is bad offensively. And equally constipated against zones and man-to-man. How you can create that many steals — especially near midcoast or even in the backcourt and have so few transition buckets to show for it is stunning.

Tennessee is tenacious defensively — as long as they aren't facing a "Win-one-for-Joe-B" motivated Kentucky, that is.

Man, Vandy games without the students feels like an antiseptic, Tuesday-night high school game. And even worse for the 'Dores, what are always two of the most live crowds of the season — UK and UT — have come and gone without students, which allowed the 'Cats and the Vols to have more fans in Memorial than Vandy. Stupid COVID.

And for what it's worth — and this case it was worth a sizable chunk of entertainment — UT pulled a near miracle out of its warm-ups by covering the 6.5 in that 68-60 win.

What is UT's ceiling? If I had to pick, I'd say NCAA tournament team, a 7 or 8 seed, and they will not get by the first weekend because they will score 52 points against a fundamentally sound Conference USA team that doesn't turn it over. Thoughts?

— Elsewhere in the SEC, Arkansas had its streak of almost 1,100 consecutive games with a 3 snapped in a win over South Carolina. While not as noteworthy but also of note, South Carolina is right there with Georgia as the worst team in Jay Bilas' best conference.

— Missouri crushed a deflated Ole Miss in Oxford. Is there a bigger swing team in Jay Bilas' best conference than MIzzou, which has an impressive win over Alabama but lost by 20 to Liberty?

As for tonight's games, the two best teams in the league play before facing each other, as Auburn welcomes Georgia and Kentucky faces Texas A&M, which is perfect in the SEC and has the second-longest winning streak in Jay Bilas' best conference at eight games.

And the best game of the evening may be LSU heading to Alabama.

Enjoy. We know Bilas will be watching.


 This and that

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Harrison Bailey leaving KnoxVegas for Las Vegas. Is there a bigger/better example in recent memory of the backup QB being the most popular cat on the roster than Harrison Bailey? Discuss.

— Heard the news that Ron Franklin died. Class dude. And supremely great at an undervalued skill in his chosen field of play-by-play sports broadcasting. In an era of Jim Nantz already mulling over his next catchphrase or Joe Tess and Gus Johnson needing a cigarette after a 5-yard run off left tackle, Franklin was understated and professional. He was informative and realized we were watching the game more than tuning in for his words about the game. That made him a consummate pro. Whether you realize it or not, his longtime roles on ESPN's college football and basketball likely put Franklin on the shortlist of the broadcaster you have heard the most over the last 30-plus years. And, like the movie equivalent of seeing Steve Buscemi in the credits, you always knew the game was going to be better with Ron Franklin at the mic. Rest easy, sir.

— Speaking of the SEC, how's this for an SEC parlay: Florida money line over Miss State, LSU-Alabama over 149.5, Kentucky money line over A&M, and Auburn minus-22 over Georgia? That pays plus-580 (bet $100, win $580).

— Former Missouri defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo — no relation to Trey — has transferred to LSU.  

— The Winter Olympics start in Beijing in two weeks and two days. And with the COVID-19 situation as well as the warnings from governing bodies to athletes against activism and/or speaking out against host China, it will be a miracle if this event happens without serious incident. A miracle.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

Which high-dollar quarterback without a title has the best chance to win a Super Bowl in the coming years?

Which leg of my above SEC parlay will crack, because we all know I'm a three-out-of-four kind of parlay player?

Which living person is the most famous West Virginian?

You know the drill, answer some Which ways, and leave some Which ways.

As for today, Jan. 19, let's review.

The "Tuck Rule" was forever formed on this day 20 years ago. Wow.

As for birthday days, Robert E. Lee would have been 215. Edgar Allan Poe would have been 213. Janis Joplin would have been 79.

Dolly Parton is 76. If you have a bad word to say about Dolly, you can leave now.

Rushmore of Dolly, and yes, Ms. Parton is far left.