THE BUBBA SCREEN

by John Walters

A note, nay, a confession: we don’t watch anywhere near as much college football this offseason. It’s… refreshing. So these reports are in no way intended to be comprehensive. Our completion percentage hovers around 50%, making us the Braxton Burmeister of college football re-cappers. Of course, this column remains pro bono (but also, as you’ll see, pro Bobo). If you care to donate, though, you may do so via PayPal and hit up trumansparks88@gmail.com.

Addison is a key addition for the Fight On crew

Own The Portal, Be Immortal

College football has morphed into the sports version of that classic SNL sketch, “Meet Your Second Wife.”
Watching a pair of college football games from Los Angeles this weekend instilled in us the primacy of owning the college football portal in this brave new world of CFB. On Friday night undefeated Washington and UCLA clashed (and not just fashion-wise) in the Rose Bowl. The Huskies were led by quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., an Indiana transfer who just happened to be leading the nation in passing (and still is, despite the 40-32 defeat). Two-thirds of the Bruins’ offensive skill-position triad are also transfers: matchup nightmare Mike Bobo (6’5″), late of Duke, who runs like a deer but looks like a tight end; and running back Zach Charbonnet, who returned home to Los Angeles after a season at Michigan. All three players shined in a game that kicked off at 10:30 p.m. on the East coast.

On Saturday night, same kickoff time (maybe this is a Pac-12 After Dark item disguised as a transfer item?), USC defeated team-without-hap Arizona State, 42-25. USC’s top three offensive weapons are all transfers, as you probably know: quarterback Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), wide receiver and reigning Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison (Pitt) and running back Travis Dye (Oregon). Dye, like Charbonnet, played his high school football in the Los Angeles area. Also worth noting that the Sun Devils had lost to the portal two key offensive weapons: quarterback Jaylen Daniels is slinging for LSU, who—don’t look now—is 4-1 with an only loss being a product of a blocked PAT at the end of regulation in the season opener versus Florida State; and 6’7″ wideout Johnny Wilson, now a Seminole, whom the ESPN guys splooge over every time his name is mentioned. Wilson, who’s actually on his third school, had hands of stone in Tempe. He has markedly improved.

There are so many more: quarterback Adrian Martinez (Nebraska to Kansas State) has the Wildcats ranked 20th (an inexplicable home loss to Tulane preventing K-State from being 5-0); Alabama, of all schools, is relying on a running back from Georgia Tech, Jahmyr Gibbs, to be its RB1. Not coincidentally, the coaches at Nebraska and Georgia Tech were fired before the calendar struck October.

Gibbs’ move about 2 1/2 hours west from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa is paying dividends for him and Bama; not so much for Geoff Collins and Ga. Tech

Sure, plenty of 2022 studs are still with the girl they brought to the prom (Bryce Young, Spencer Sanders, Bijan Robinson, to name just a few), but it’s more and more apparent that, as a coaching staff, your transfer portal “recruiters” need to be even more skilled and comprehensive than your high school recruiters. First, for a coach whose bath temperature is rapidly rising, transfers represent a much quicker fix. Second, they’re already established and you don’t have to shepherd them through the freshmen transition. And not only must schools begin to better appreciate the importance of the transfer portal. So must broadcasters. The portal, and not recruiting classes, has now become the largest indicator of a program’s offseason development—or depletion. And that’s also what makes it different. The portal, unlike recruiting prep stars, is a zero sum game. Look at Ga. Tech and Alabama. The Tide’s gain of Gibbs is just as much a story as the Yellow Jackets’ loss of him. Unlike pro sports, Ga Tech received no compensation.

Meanwhile, the portal will probably only widen the chasm between haves and have-nots. The only reason that you’re transferring, say, to a Purdue is because you’re stuck on the second or third team or you grew up in the area. But if you’re someone who’s established himself at a perennial sub-.500 or thereabouts school, such as Bobo or Gibbs, you transfer to a Bucket List School.

Final thought: the transfer portal being fluid as it is, the ultimate power move would be for Nick Saban to announce that he’s retiring, then persuade his top 40 players to join him as he returns to his alma mater, Kent State. Watch the Golden Flashes go 12-0 and earn a berth in the expanded 12-team playoff. Okay, maybe not Kent State, but what if Nick did this at Hawaii (maholo, bitches!) or even SEC doormat Vandebilt? We’d be rooting for them.

Jenny, Jenny*

*If you are a certain age, the words “Ooh, can I call you” just popped into your head

That, above, is Jenny Dell, CBS’s new sideline reporter for its marquee SEC game each Saturday. So it occurred to us that now both CBS and Fox (Jenny Taft) are leading with women named Jenny who have a four-letter surname that goes consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant. But the similarities only begin there. Both ladies attended college in Massachusetts (Dell attended UMass-Amherst; Taft, Boston University… SEC sororities should be mildly ashamed that a pair of Massachusetts schools-without-Division-I-football grads are taking these gigs) and both married professional athletes. Dell wed former Boston Red Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks (she covered the Red Sox for NESN), while Taft married Matt Gilroy, a former NHL skater and winner of the hockey Heisman, the Hobey Baker Award. Further, Dell’s cameraman is named Taft and Taft’s cameraman is named Dell (okay, that’s not true, but if Steve Rushin is reading this—and why would he be?—he’ll appreciate the line).

The Picture Of Dorian’s Play

We remember seeing this in real time and thinking, that’s just filthy by Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The ESPN announcers didn’t see to notice the U-Dub tacklers pulling a Florida offensive linemen-in-Musgrave-era Keystone Cops move in real time or even on the replay. Not until ESPN returned from commercial did they point it out. Someone on Twitter wondered aloud, “Can a play win the Heisman?” Outstanding point, sir. By the way, we believe this was at the end of the same drive in which DTR hurdled a Husky tackler (and on that play as well, two Husky defenders collided). This is a here’s-my-reel drive for the veteran Bruin QB.

Aaron Judge Not, Lest You Be Aaron Judged

How meta is it to be interrupting your own college football recap column with an item on the Aaron Judge nontroversy? Full disclosure, I’m a lifelong Yankee fan and so in terms of my interest in Judge’s home run chase, it would be foolhardy for me to claim I’m 100% objective. However, I am sincere in this task so allow me to pontificate for a moment or two. To me, it’s all a matter of maintaining perspective. Like, sure, if you’re watching Houston play Tulane on TV on a Friday evening (and did not attend either school), you may have bigger problems. And yes, I can understand how a live look-in to an Aaron Judge at-bat might seem annoying (it’s a split-screen; it’s not as if they dropped the football game entirely).

But isn’t this where it’s time to be an adult and say to yourself, “Personally, I don’t love it, but I can at least understand why the suits at ESPN are doing it?” I don’t know where the majority falls on this, because in the world of social media, it’s always the unhappy noisy few whose voices are the loudest (cutaway thought: almost no one goes on RateMyProfessor.com to say, “I thought the prof was at the very least above average”). We live, sadly, in a post-Yelp! world where the loudest whiners can make it seem as if they are in the majority. I imagine most people are like myself: we just don’t have the energy to say that we like something or, if we’re not a huge fan, can roll with it. Again, perspective. How big of a deal is this really?

Fox’s Tim Brando, whom we adore in most situations, tweeted out about this radical injustice and used the word “terrorizing” to describe what ESPN is doing here. And then he called out “media critics” for giving ESPN a free pass here. I’m no longer a paid media critic, but I am currently reading Max Hastings “Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945.” Now as you read about the countless millions who died the most horrible of death due to the true terror perpetrated by the Nazis, and Josef Stalin, and the Japanese, it’s hard to get too riled up about a split-screen viewing of Aaron Judge’s home run chase.

And yes, I realize I just went full Sinead O’Connor on a sports argument and that’s not really fair. Everyone, I would hope, would appreciate that when we are arguing sports that we still appreciate sports’ true role in relation to the actual important issues in the world. Then again, as a lifelong human being in these United States, I wonder if we Americans are so often so out of touch with reality (i.e., the “first-world problems’ issue) that we actually have lost perspective. I’d argue that using the word “terrorizing” in relation to a live look-in to an Aaron Judge at bat gives me sufficient reason to muse on that.

Can A Play Win The Heisman, Part 2

Notable That He Tosses Helmet With Non-Throwing Arm

The B.S. Wonders

… If you realize that both Alabama and now Georgia found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter to an unranked team on the road this season. Clemson found itself trailing in the fourth quarter at Wake Forest, which was ranked 21st at the time. Playing in your opponent’s on-campus venue ain’t so easy, is it? Ohio State, 5-0, has yet to venture beyond the Horseshoe… WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG POST TO TAKE YOU TO YANKEE STADIUM, WHERE AARON JUDGE IS WALKING TO HOME PLATE… How genius and aware of your fan base for the University of Wisconsin to announce the dismissal of head coach Paul Chryst during the fourth quarter of a tight Packers home game versus the Patriots? Chryst’s offense was criminally obsolete, but he is a Badger alum who led them to a Rose Bowl. Still, this may be what I remember most about his tenure. How on-the-nose Wisconsin his firing was… Should’t MacKenzie Scott be the next Bachelorette (if you need help, that’s Jeff Bezos’ ex who then married a high school chemistry teacher and has pledged to give away most of her wealth during her lifetime)?… Isn’t it too bad that UCLA quarterback Steve Bono preceded current UCLA wideout Jake Bobo (probably by about 40 years)? A “Bono to Bobo” connection would have been fun for broadcasters…Wouldn’t you laugh if, just once, you saw a rosary beads-clutching priest anxiously rushing into the medical tent? Or a Native American medicine man waving sage? I know I would… Did you also notice that Bryce Young addresses the not-his-equal college kids “C.J.” in that Fansville ad? Nice touch… After that shot to the head, if Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel is cleared to play this weekend versus Texas, should Miami fire its team doctor all over again?… If we’d all be discussing that astounding TD catch by Kentucky, the game-winner in Oxford, if they hadn’t flagged the Wildcats for holding?… By the way, Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart is now officially a misnomer, as he has the worst completion percentage in the SEC…How many of us had, for the Texas A&M at Alabama Saturday, what with all the off-season sniping between Nick and Jimbo, College GameDay setting up camp in Lawrence, Kansas, on October 8th?

Mizzou-ry

If for no other reason than that this college kicker moment needed to be validated, we found ourselves rooting for Missouri on Saturday evening.

Alas, two untimely errors from the right side of Mizzou’s O-line undid the Tigers’ upset bid of No. 1 Georgia. First, a right guard flinched on first-and-inches on the goal line and Mizzou would ultimately settle for a field goal. Later, Mizzou converted a key third-and-nine on a dynamite pitch-and-catch late, but it was nullified by a hands to the face flag (a good call, too). Alas, after that moment Mizzou still led but you could see the heart go out of them. It’s as if they knew what was preordained needed to come true. Kind of like the Mets in Atlanta.

Finally, think about how much more this game would have meant in the BCS era. The No. 1 team likely knocked out of its title quest with loss at unranked Mizzou. Now, it’s almost meaningless. In two years, it’ll be even less so. They’ll tell you that the expanded playoff gives more schools a chance but what it actually does is act as a safety net against blue bloods being undone by an upset loss.

Dye Job

This photo does not begin to do justice to ESPN’s “glamor shot” photo of USC running back Travis Dye, but at least it shows the mustache. Props to ESPN’s Dave Flemming for going there, noting that it “may be my favorite glamor shot” he’s seen this season. No doubt. If you’ve seen it, Dye seems to be going either for an Oates of Hall and Oates look, or ’70s TV cop sidekick look, or supplanting Billy Dee Williams for his own Colt .45 malt liquor ad campaign. Any way you choose to see it, Travis needs himself a guest spot in Fansville and pronto.

When You Realize The Manning Cast Is Just An Update On Statler & Waldorf

Kudos to SNL‘s writers for being this self-aware for the cold open of the show’s 48th season. And also props to host Miles Teller for, as everyone has noted, nailing the Peyton Manning impression. This reminded us of September 1993, we believe, when Conan O’Brien cold-opened the maiden broadcast of his late-night show in similar self-deprecating fashion. Conan, as you know, had previously been an SNL writer.

While we’re at it, rookie Michael Longfellow was solid in this sketch and in his “Weekend Update” appearance, basically transferring some of his stand-up material to the desk. We invite you to check out his stand up material on YouTube, especially the routine about him having three dads. Longfellow, like alums David Spade and Aidy Bryant, is from the Phoenix area. Both of his parents are attorneys out here.

The Perfect Metaphor

We know. It’s baseball. But a more apt metaphor you will not find.

Final Thought…

Last week a piece that I spent nearly three months working on, “Open Season,” ran on SI.com. It runs at about 10,000 words and if you have the time and inclination, I hope you will read it. What I must say I’ve found interesting is the absolute silence with which this piece has been greeted in sports media. And on Twitter. It’s the second 10,000-word piece I’ve had in SI in the past four months that was completely ignored by Don Van Natta’s “Sunday Long Read” and also by Richard Deitsch in his “sports pieces of note” section of his weekly column for The Athletic. It’s odd. The former piece led to a bunch of interview requests, including one from NPR. John Oliver’s people got in touch with me because they want to do a pickle ball piece (the first long-form piece I did back in May) as did HBO’s “Real Sports.” In fact, Mary Carillo and her Real Sports crew, who pre-interviewed me for the piece, were here in the Phoenix area this past weekend shooting footage for their piece (after I hooked them up with some locals).

No one I know in sports media tweeted anything about the pickle ball piece. And now the same wall of silence surrounds this high school football piece. It’s… curious. I guess I’ve made a few enemies.

For the record, I was up at 5 a.m. four days a week last semester to teach a 7:30 a.m. class at Cronkite. The semester ended and nobody from Cronkite had the simple courtesy to tell me why I was not being retained. I spent five autumns waking up before College GameDay began on Saturday (5:30 a.m. out west) and watching programming through College Football Final in order to deliver a weekly football recap for The Athletic. And then they kissed me off by having an editor I’ve never met in person send me a lame one-line “Dear John” note. I think my friend Tim Brando might say they are “terrorizing” me. 🙂

I hope younger sports journalists or aspiring sports journalists read this. I’ve got 33 years in the business. Even after that unceremonious treatment by two “established” places that I’d toiled for, and for not much money (believe me), I’m fortunate enough to have a few people in my corner at SI who allow me to have a platform to write stories that are, well, generally well-received. But all you need to do is piss off certain people, for reasons that I’m not so sure about, and the wall of silence goes up. The few people in the biz who have told me they liked the “Open Season” story did so privately. As if they were afraid to acknowledge me publicly on social media. Again, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

Like I said, 33 years in the business. And if I can still get someone to publish a 10,000-word story in SI, not a total hack. And yet, I’m being ghosted right and left.

We say that we want journalists to expose what’s wrong, to traffic in transparency. So I wonder why none of my peers are able to muster the same spirit.

When I worked at NBC Sports.com, they got rid of the best editor we had, Barry Werner. Those in the biz who know Barry hold him dear to their hearts. The ultimate writer’s editor and one of the very best I ever worked with. But not the guy you want to schmooze with the C-suite execs. When they fired Barry, I phoned his boss (who was also mine) and told him, being quite impolitic, that I felt we had made a grievous mistake. And that I wanted it on the record that I had stood up for my editor. Not the shrewdest move to make if you want to navigate the waters of corporate journalism (I was canned a little more than a year later), but I’d do it again if given the chance.

If you are an editor or a journalism dean reading this, here’s my last two points: I’m looking for a full-time job. If you’ve got one available, contact me at trumansparks88@gmail.com. I’ve learned a lot about people in the past six months, people in my business. Also, I’d like to give a special shout out to Adam Duerson, my editor at SI, who falls in that Barry Werner camp of editors who not only guide your stories to completion, but have backbones as well.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Frankie Lasagna!*

*This is our new home run call, at least for this player during this run

Even the analytics guys cannot spoil this moment for us. Sixty-one years after Roger Maris belted number 61 in 1961, Aaron Judge becomes only the second American League player (and second Yankee) to smile number 61. Meanwhile, a guy named Franke Lasagna, sitting in the first row of Toronto’s elevated left field seats and having brought a glove to the game, whiffs on admittedly what would have been a terrific catch on a baseball traveling at more than 100 m.p.h.

We’d spent the past few nights watching and reveling on the blossoming relationship between Roger Maris, Jr., and Patty Judge (we know: she’s married). By Tuesday we’d even come up with this movie tease: “He broke his father’s home-run record; she broke his heart… ‘Love At First Bat,’ coming to theaters this Christmas.”

Aaron Judge seems like a genuinely good guy. We are happy to say we watched his first Major League at-bat (a home run to dead center in Yankee Stadium) and feel confident that the wealthiest (or one of two) organization in baseball will pay him handsomely this winter and not lose him to Manchester United (about the only other franchise that could afford him). Of course, it would help if the Yanks win the Fall Classic. Lots of drama ahead.

Splish Splash Storm Crash

Hurricane Ian strikes Florida’s southerly west coast and it is a banger. Besides being the only hurricane in memory whose name is fully included in the letters of “hurricane,” Ian has brought its 15 m.p.h. winds to places such as Fort Myers and Captiva Island (only 2 m.p.h. below a Category-5 hurricane… imagine if Ian had juiced). And then there’s all that water (it supposedly emptied all the water out of Tampa Bay, and we’re not sure how all of that water displacement works, but we’ve seen the photos). We read yesterday that one cubic yard of water weight 1,600 pounds, which we found difficult to believe, but if true, this explains so much of the devastation. That and winds that turn power lines into match sticks. And… whew… we managed to get through this entire item without mentioning that Gov. Ron DeSantis is a neo-Nazi.

The Hilaree Step Off

If you had not heard of Hilaree Nelson before last week, what you might have learned is that she lived that sort of adventurous life that every longtime subscriber of Outside magazine aspires to. Nelson, 49, lived in the idyllic Colorado mountain town of Telluride with her life partner, Jim Morrison, and two sons. She seemed to make a living by living adventurously, scaling some of the world’s tallest peaks and then, yes, skiing down them. In this video Nelson, a fit beauty and that was likely part of her commercial appeal, describes her ethos:

“I seek out suffering because through suffering I get to know myself a lot more.” Suffering, sure. But not death.

On Monday Nelson and Morrison were skiing in Nepal, down the summit of Mountain Manaslu, the world’s eighth-tallest peak, when she was taken under by a small avalanche. It took two days before rescuers could locate her body. Ten years ago Nelson became the first female in the world to summit both Mount Everest and Lhotse (world’s tallest and 4th-tallest peaks) in a span of 24 hours. The two peaks are separated by a saddle, which Nelson skied across.

We think of the death of free climber Dean Potter. Or of the survival of the protagonist of Free Solo, Alex Hannold. We are fascinated by Nelson and Potter and Hannold because—at least to us—here are people fortunate enough to live in a free society and have first-world problems and yet their thirst for adventure compels them to take the biggest gamble of all: to gamble with their lives when there are zero external forces obligating this. We, at least, think of the millions and millions of people throughout history who never had that luxury, who lost their lives because they were simply born in the wrong country or belonged to the “wrong” religion or were conscripted into battle. And, please understand, we in no way are judging Nelson or the others for this choice. Live your life the way you want. It’s only that, to me, this is why we find these people so compelling. How many humans are willing to risk their lives for… adventure?

Someone on one of Hilaree’s YouTube videos commented, yesterday, that they wonder if she’d think it was worth it all now. We don’t think of it that way. Of course someone who had the appetite for life that Nelson did would never want to have hers extinguished prematurely. We guess the other way to look at it is, How much more living did Hilaree Nelson do in her 49 years than most people would do in 90? RIP.

Balk Showalter

Back to Rule No. 7, which states, as you know by now, that “Every Major League Baseball game offers the possibility to witness something you’ve never seen before.” And you don’t have to be Frankie Lasagna to appreciate that. On Tuesday at Citi Field something we cannot recall seeing: the same Miami Marlins pitcher, Richard Bleier, called for a balk three times during one at-bat. There needs to be a sports doc about this moment. How and why did this happen?

Watch the video. You can definitely make the argument that pitchers balk the way offensive linemen hold (are you going to call it every play?). But as you watch this video, you’ll see that Bleier has a little history with the Blue and maybe they’re reminding him here who’s boss. I dunno. But to allow a two-out single and then see the runner score on a trio of balks? And they wonder why baseball lags behind the NFL and the NBA! Actually, we love the idiosyncrasy and, yes, the possible pettiness.

The Marlins did hold on to beat the Mets, 6-4.

Last note: the ump here is John Tumpane.

Best Packer Who Does Not Play For Green Bay

So simple. So genius. Join us in wondering how come you never thought of this yourself.

THE BUBBA SCREEN

by John Walters

We missed most of Saturday’s games, so this one will be briefer…

Can U C USC?

Forget for a moment whether you can see USC as a playoff team… I’ll get to that in a bit… Could U C USC last Saturday night? If you do not have the Pac-12 Network, you could not see the Trojans game in Corvallis versus Oregon State. I actually have the Pac-12 Network (555 on Cox cable) and my screen read “One Moment Please, This Channel Should Be Available Shortly.” It was not; still isn’t, though it has worked in the past. My Pac-12 Network is a lot like USC’s offense, apparently: inconsistent.

While much has been made of the Trojans’ ballyhooed transfer haul (upgrades at QB, RB, WR and HC), there are two reasons that we should probably begin to take USC seriously this season: 1) the Trojans lead the nation in turnover margin, and not by a little. USC not only has a +14 in this category after four games but are tied for first both in most turnovers forced (14) and in least turnovers committed (0). This is what good teams do. 2) USC might have choked on the road at Reser Stadium, and yes a dominant team might not have had as much trouble on the road versus an unranked opponent (hello, Clemson?), but the point is they found a way to win. Both of USC’s touchdowns were scored in the fourth quarter and both drives featured a 4th-down conversion. The first came on 4th-and-2 from the Beaver 7, as Travis Dye took a handoff and ran right, untouched, for the score. Then, on the 11-play game-winning drive, there was a Bush Push Deja Vu 4th down play at midfield in which quarterback Caleb Williams first appeared to be stopped on 4th-and-6. Later in the drive Williams hit Jordan Addison for the game-winning TD pass. Dye. Williams. Addison. All plucked off the internet by USC in the offseason.

We’ve watched this play nearly 10 times. No question that two Big Uglies—the center and the left guard—saved USC’s season. Our question: Hadn’t Williams’ forward progress already been stopped? Why wasn’t this whistled dead yet?

Welcome to 2022. The Trojans are definitely the early leaders in CFB’s Brave New World division. Let’s hope we can all see them play come Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City versus Utah, which until proven otherwise, remains the class of the Pac-12.

The Doink That Saved Jimbo

We were inches away from Jimbo and Texas A&M suffering their second loss of… September. Then the above happened. What made it even better is that ESPN’s play-by-play man was Joe Tessitore, whose son was a college kicker and who’s attended more kicking camps than probably all the other college broadcasters combined. So after the Arkansas kicker Little’s miss—and we’ve never seen one drink off the TOP of an upright—here was Tess explaining in excruciating detail how his right foot got too far under the ball which caused over-rotation, which caused the ball to sail to the right. Great stuff here. Unless you are a Hog.

Yo, Adrian!

This is what redemption looks like. Quarterback Adrian Martinez, late of Nebraska, has found a home in Manhattan (If he can make it there, he’ll make it—oops, wrong Manhattan) as he led Kansas State to its third win over Oklahoma of the past four years. This TD run was phenomenal, a moment he’ll never forget. By the way, a guy we know knows a guy in Lincoln who says that Martinez’s successor with the Huskers, Charles Thompson, is not at all popular with his teammates. You may recall that Thompson was formerly the quarterback at Texas. I know, it’s difficult to keep track of all the QB transients.

There’s The Beef

Notre Dame exited the playoff conversation by mid-September (you’re welcome), but last Saturday in Chapel Hill this season’s team may have found its identity. Or borrowed one from Jim Harbaugh’s and David Shaw’s vintage Stanford squads, known for imposing “intellectual brutality.” The Irish rushed for 287 yards as the offensive line at long last lived up to its preseason hype. Sophomore offensive tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher (54, above) each run around 6’7″, 320 and will be NFL high-round draft picks. Last Saturday the Irish ran behind them and it also helped to have a third running back, Logan Diggs, back in the fold. Audric Estime scored the most carries (and gained a career-high 134 yards) and reminds us of a junior Jerome Bettis. This year’s Irish are suddenly competitive and while the offense won’t be sexy, with an offensive line like this and a 2023 first-round NFL tight end in Michael Mayer, it’ll be an offense that pulverizes you. Very Lou Holtz-ish, actually.

Is Alt (76) the first modern-day player named after a keyboard function? If the name is familiar, his dad was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs and his older brother skates for the Los Angeles Kings.

The B.S. Wonders…

Another weekend with no Premier League? Did the Queen die again?… Speaking of Premier League-related issues, we’d like to suggest to our good friend Ralph Russo at the Associated Press that he employ relegation rules for his writers who vote in the weekly AP poll. How are a pair of 3-1 Pac-12 teams ahead of 4-0 Washington (if you get credit for good losses over being undefeated, then why is fellow Pac-12 school USC ahead of 3-1 Oregon and Utah while the Huskies are not)? Who actually voted for 2-2 North Carolina (never mind that the Tar Heels had just lost to 2-2 Notre Dame at home while the Irish received no votes, and justifiably so)? How does 4-0 Kansas not merit a spot in the Top 25? If you’re this incompetent at polling, you should lose your position. Plenty of folks (Oh, I dunno who) would gladly do this and better than the existent lot… When will College GameDay visit Fansville and make Hot Mom the celebrity guest picker?…. By the way, on October 15 we’ve got Penn State at Michigan (both could be undefeated) and USC at Utah (Utes with one loss) and I know where I’d vote for Rece and the Gang to visit, but let’s put it this way: there’s a very good chance the guest pickers will be The Chainsmokers… Two baseball rules I’d incorporate, if even just for one game during spring training to liven things up: 1) after each inning, a player must switch to a new position (nine players, nine innings: it’s a natural) and 2) with no runners on base, the batter has a choice whether to run toward first (CCW) or toward third (CW). Thereafter, in that inning, once a player reaches base, that team maintains same direction… Did you see the feature on Career Redemption in Tuscaloosa, where Butch Jones revealed that he earned $4 million his last season at Tennessee as HC (we knew that) and $30,000 the next year as an analyst for Nick Saban? Loved the detail about “infield” and “outfield” at the coaches’ meetings and also that Mike Locksley was a glorified summer camp counselor as part of his gig, taking kids to the swimming pool. Just a terrific piece by Woj—even if it did adhere to Norby standards of only talking about one of eight different programs in college football… Since you asked: Bama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, USC and Texas… Speaking of the Longhorns, did you realize that eight of the ten Big 12 schools have a better record than Texas (2-2) and the ninth, WVU, has the same record? Yes, kudos to UT for scheduling Bama, but still… Is it just us or does Oklahoma seem to annually play an exciting prime-time game in Norman that more often than not lately ends in defeat to someone from Kansas or Iowa?.. Yes, it’s early, but did you realize that Air Force is averaging an insane 412 yards rushing per game? This is Steph Curry-like, as no other team is averaging as many as 295. Dating back to 2009, no school has finished a season averaging as many as 380 yards per game on the ground. So if you’re looking for the Ultimate Misnomer Award, Air Force has it seemingly wrapped up… What will Fox do come November when the World Cup is upon us? We know Rob Stone was a college soccer player and must be hosting the network’s World Cup coverage (from soccer-mad Qatar!) again as he did from Moscow in 2018. So who’ll take the emcee duties at Fox? Kevin Burkhardt’s otherwise engaged with the NFL… Would you not love seeing Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run being an inside-the-park job, which means that it would likely end up in the glove of the opposing team’s catcher?… Roger Federer-Serena vs. Rafael Nadal-Venus. Make it happen… With Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson gone, who are the top remaining SNL players ahead of this weekend’s season debut? Our ranking: 1) Kenan Thompson, the show’s ultimate Iron Horse, whose mere presence makes you smile, 2) Cecily Strong and 3) Heidi Gardner, both of whom are extremely talented actresses in their own right, 4) Mikey Day, almost by process of elimination (Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd and Alex Moffat all left) and 5) Sarah Sherman, last season’s Rookie of the Year. We did not include Che/Jost in this ranking, but “Weekend Update” should remain the “I’ll-stay-up-until” standard, or at least until the musical guests stop sucking…

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

If I Were King For Just One Day…* *

*Name that band

** The judges acknowledge that “Charles In Charge” is simply too obvious

It was a mighty majestic run, Queen Elizabeth II, beginning with Winston Churchill as your prime minister and pretty much ending with Boris Johnson (although Liz Truss got in just under he wire, the 16th different person to hold that role in Her Majesty’s 70-year reign). Elizabeth II passes from this mortal coil with the longest reign in the history of the British monarchy (which extends nearly a millennium itself), surpassing the 63-year reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria (63 years), about whom they referred to an entire half-plus century as the “Victorian Era.”

One solid thing about the queen: she knew how to behave in public. Thus far, less than one week on the job, her son, King Charles, has faltered at that badly.

Wow, dude. Momma never did that.

Then there’s this edifying moment from last Friday. Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon), who is Welsh, provides this articulate history lesson on September 16, it’s meaning to the Welsh people, the title “Prince of Wales,” and Charles’ curious decision to visit Cardiff just one day into his reign. It takes a few minutes, but Sheen is a gifted raconteur. It’s worth your time.

And for those of you who, like me, wondered how on earth you spell that name Sheen keeps repeating, it is Owain Glyndwr Day, commemorating the date in 1400 when he claimed the title.

Max Effort*

*The judges will also accept, “Buck Stopped Here”

Last night in Milwaukee, New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer took the hill for the first time since Sept. 3. Scherzer, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, pitched a perfect game through six innings. Nine strikeouts and only 68 pitches. Then manager Buck Showalter, the thinking man’s manager, lifted him.

Now, we get it. You want Max’s arm to be at full strength in October, something it was not when the Dodgers rented him last season. Also, Scherzer is 38. Finally, as Mets fans know, after Johan Santana pitched the franchise’s first no-hitter in 2012 (134 pitches) he was never the same pitcher again. To wit, from USA Today in 2016:

To many, Santana stands as a cautionary tale against allowing pitchers to blow past their typical workloads in pursuit of no-hitters. On June 1, 2012, Mets manager Terry Collins allowed Santana to throw 134 pitches in an eight-strikeout, five-walk no-hit effort against the St. Louis Cardinals, the first no-hitter of Santana’s career and the first in Mets’ franchise history. That gem lowered Santana’s season ERA to 2.38, but he posted an 8.27 mark over his final ten starts of the season. He has not pitched in a Major League game since.”

And never did.

But here’s the other side of the coin. There have been, what, about 120 different World Series champions since the first World Series was played in 1903. But there have only been 23 perfect games. And Scherzer, who has two no-hitters and three Cy Youngs on his resume, would surely have liked to add that notch to his mitt. Or so we think. If the Mets go on to win their first World Series since 1986, that may overshadow anything Scherzer would have done on the mound last night. No, we’ll go so far as to say it would have.

68 pitches. That’s just one more than half of what Santana threw over nine innings. And Max was 2/3 home. At least, in our opinion, let him go out and pitch the seventh. If he allows a base hit or a walk or even an error, pull him. If not, then you make up your mind then. We could even live with the yanking. But let’s allow the plot to thicken, no?

However, if the Mets fail to win the World Series (only Mets fans still discuss 2015), then a Scherzer perfect game would have put him in that rare company of Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson, All fo Famers already with an added perfecto to mention on their plaques. So in that sense Buck Showalter short-changed fans, and Max, last night.

Wheel of 4-Chan*

*The judges salute Twitter follower @WoodburnDuck for this genius hed

Apparently this photo was snapped during a dinner in August. Sajak lives in Maryland and owns a publishing house that has published the “works” of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. Hey, it’s fine to be a Republican (or at least it used to be), but posing with a whackadoodle such as MTG makes us wonder if, going forward, the Wheel of Fortune wheel will feature a “Morally Bankrupt” wedge.

The Bash Brothers

No sport courts history quite the way baseball does (see above item), and for this, the regular season’s penultimate week, we have a doozy for history mavens. In the Bronx, Aaron Judge of the Yankees will chase the American League (and franchise) home run record. El Juez has 59 home runs and needs only three to break Roger Maris’ record. The Yankees have six consecutive home games versus Pittsburgh and Boston, each in last place in their respective divisions. So they may as well pitch to him, no?

You gotta wonder how much HR No. 62 is going to be worth on the collectors’ market. If you catch it, do NOT give it to Aaron Judge. He may be your favorite Yankee, but that’s generational wealth you’re holding in your hand. It’s the type of home run that could inspire Don DeLillo to pen a sequel to Underworld (if you know, you know).

Meanwhile, out west, St. Louis Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols will be chasing career home run No. 700 (which would put him in the same company as immortals Bonds, Aaron and Ruth). A month or two ago, the prospect of Pujols reaching 700 seemed the opposite of near-fetched, but he’s been on a tear since the Home Run Derby (which he took part in) and should have his first 20-home run season since 2019 (he has 19 now). The Cardinals begin a three-game series in San Diego tonight followed by a weekend series at Dodger Stadium. You can imagine the Fox (Saturday) and ESPN (Sunday) execs hoping Albert’s at 699 when their day arrives.

Either way, it’s fantastic baseball theater. Two lucky (and wealthier) baseball fans could be among us this time next week.

Carey, Get Out Your Cane

We’ve boon poring over Joni Mitchell’s classic 1971 album, Blue, which is not only the ultimate breakup album but also has been named by both NPR and Rolling Stone as the greatest album ever by a female artist (and No. 2 all-time). One of the song’s singles, the 4th song on Side 1, is “Carey,” which is actually a misspelling. Mitchell, who was vacationing on the island of Crete with a female friend, sort of running out on her relationship with Graham Nash (whose “Our House” was a devotional to their romance), when she met up with the perfect rebound guy bad boy: a redheaded chef at The Mermaid Cafe named Cary Raditz (above). It was a brief Grecian fling that must have torn Nash’s heart out to hear (she formally broke up with him by telegram while she was abroad). She first performed this song for Raditz for his 24th birthday and then it became a timeless classic, one of many she wrote during this era. Listen to the lyrics. Joni doesn’t leave much out (“Oh, you’re a mean old daddy/but I like you, I like you…“).

Postscript: Raditz is still alive and finally acknowledged that he was the “Carey” in the song about six years ago. Mitchell’s next big romance would be a musician who played on this album: James Taylor. But then JT would explode soon after and she couldn’t handle his fame, or at least that’s how the story goes. Also, there was Carly Simon.

THE BUBBA SCREEN

by John Walters

I’m so happy to announce that I’ve been hired as pickleball beat writer at The Athletic and it’s the culmination of all my hopes and dreams and here is my Instagram Stories showing the moment I found out and here is my tweet showing me at the pickleball venue press box three hours before the first game and here is my 2,000-word navel-gazer on how I climbed from the depths of a private high school education to overcome insurmountable odds to become a sports writer and, sure, I could be using this time to actually report or investigate stuff but it’s the Attention Age and it’s all about ME after all and….

We should probably be more charitable (that’ll be our epitaph). We get it: you’re excited about your gig. Please remember, though, that YOU are not the story. The people/team you cover are. For example…

We will not name the writer (and he does not work for The Athletic), but this particular scribe posted a tweet of his perch from a football stadium this past Saturday, multiple hours before kickoff (congratulations! You were… on time), then filed a story about a key player on the team he covers who came over during the offseason via the transfer portal. We read the story and then re-read it to make certain that we had this correct and guess what? There is no mention of this player’s previous school, i.e., from which he transferred. Kind of an important element to the story, no? It’s not just a journalist fail here, but doesn’t this writer have an editor (or a “content producer”)? In related news, ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism just announced that this year’s honoree for the “Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism is going to…. (checks notes)… Gayle King!

Reporting from the front lines of… Oprah’s Hamptons estate

By the way, last year’s winner of this prestigious award was… Al Roker. The award is really about “Who’s a Big Enough Name To Draw Enough Folks to a $TK,000-a-table Luncheon” the proceeds of which will benefit ASU/Cronkite. Mr. Roker even made a joke about this very fact during his acceptance speech last March (about how he was chosen because they knew he’d be able to afford to buy out a table himself).

True story: one of my grad students attended the luncheon, waited in line to meet Al Roker, and then said to him, “I have no idea who you are but they’re going to be having one of these for me some day.” Wow.

Before we depart from this “Great Moments In Journalism” theme, here’s a tweet from ESPN’s Matt Barrie, which is a little disappointing because Matt does an excellent job at ESPN and, as we’ve noted here before, is actually a very good play-by-play man, even though he only moonlights at that gig. Matt’s an ASU/Cronkite alum and Herm Edwards is an ESPN alum (who will likely soon be returning after being fired on Sunday):

This is a tweet Matt is probably already sorry that he sent. Yes, everyone likes Herm and why wouldn’t you? But the task was not “unrealistic” and besides, he was well compensated for it and no one forced him to accept it. Matt’s job here is to take off his Sparky the Sun Devil mask and report that a Power 5 school fired its football coach after an embarrassing home loss to a directional Michigan Group of 5 program, the nadir of a tenure that never got off the ground. Of course Matt is allowed to feel bad that it did not work out for Edwards in Tempe, but to attack ASU fans for simply wanting a better product seems a little less than objective. “Turn on their own?” Does he mean himself? Weird.

The Most Interesting Man In College Football

What a fascinating odyssey it has been for Appalachian State quarterback Chase Brice, who capped a sublime Saturday in Boone, N.C., that opened with a College GameDay visit by tossing a 50-plus yard game-winning Hail Mary pass versus Troy and then helping students down from the stands onto the football field.

Let’s review a couple of career highlights of Brice, a 6’3″ redshirt senior from Grayson, Ga., who is now in his SIXTH year of college football:

• 2018: After freshman wunderkind Trevor Lawrence is injured in the first half of his first start for Clemson—previous starter Kelly Bryant had left the program earlier in the week after losing his job to Lawrence— Brice is tapped to rescue the Tigers’ season. Brice is a redshirt frosh with no previous experience and Clemson trails Syracuse by 10 at home in the fourth quarter. Brice will be remembered for completing a 4th-and-6 pass that, had it fallen incomplete, would have meant a loss for Clemson and likely a missed berth in the college football playoff. Clemson goes on to finish 15-0, with Lawrence back under center, and winning the national championship.

• In 2020, while pursuing a master’s degree at Duke, Brice completes 20 of 25 passes in a 48-0 loss to Miami that was played in front of no spectators due to Covid. Brice started 11 games for the Blue Devils in 2020, almost all of them played in front of zero fans due to Covid. He completed at least 20 passes in six of those games as the Blue Devils finished 2-9, but he did play in front of sparse crowds at Notre Dame and at Florida State.

• In 2021 joins App. State and is named Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year while throwing for a school-record single-seasons passing yardage mark of 3,337 yards. Starts all 14 games for the Mountaineers.

° Earlier this month threw a school-record six touchdown passes and led App State to 40 fourth-quarter points in the wild 63-61 loss at home to North Carolina. The wildest game of the season and it’ll be hard for any game to top it.

• For those of us who thought App. State might suffer a hangover after that defeat to UNC, we were wrong. Brice led the Moutaineers into College Station and pulled off the convincing upset against No. 8 Texas A&M. If you’re scoring at home, that’s the second time Brice has visited Kyle Field (previously the week before his playing debut with Clemson in 2018, also a win).

• Tops that top-10 upset with a Hail Mary heave to beat Troy on the very day that College GameDay makes its inaugural visit to Boone. Chase Brice has wrung out every last drop of his college experience, and fas in Boon have already had more thrills in two home games this season than most schools’ fans receive in a decade. Then, as you can see above, he actually helps fellow students make their way safely from the stands to the field.

College Football’s Most Interesting Man, three weeks in.

******

“Do your fuckin’ job!”

— Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to quarterback Drew Pyne after a series in which the Irish’s next-man-up QB ditched a gimme five-yard pass to TE Michael Mayer into the turf. Kudos to NBC for airing this moment of unabashed candor from inside Notre Dame Stadium, where the Go ND propaganda often runs thick.

We have a few questions for the NBC troops, since you brought it up: 1) Why didn’t anyone question why the Irish, with the ball at midfield and :04 on the clock before halftime, chose to punt rather than have Pyne heave a Hail Mary (she’s the school’s namesake, for Lord’s sake!) toward the north end zone? Were they trying to protect Pyne’s QBR? Did they know that Pyne cannot heave it that far? Or was this simply a failure of imagination? 2) Why aren’t NBC’s new boothers, Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett, discussing why Pyne is Notre Dame’s best option at quarterback (or why he isn’t)? And we don’t mean among ND’s stable of QBs currently, but why were the Irish not able to secure a better backup via the transfer portal?

Okay, sure, Buchner is a sophomore, so any quarterback coming to South Bend would be aware that he may never supplant Buchner, but still, you’re always one play away from being the starter (as this season has demonstrated) at a big-time national brand school that plays 11 nationally televised games a year that always garner spectacular ratings. You’re telling us the Irish coaching staff couldn’t persuade a better QB to come to South Bend? Moreover, you know it’s not going to be discussed (even if they show Drew Pyne’s dad), but there may be something to the fact that George Pyne is a very successful sports media executive operating out of Fairfield County, Conn., which is also home to… NBC Sports.

The Pyne pedigree is something. Three generations of Pyne men played in the NFL, dating all the way back to the Providence Steamrollers of 1931. George is on the board of the National Football Foundation and the National Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York. Great, that should earn his son a spot on campus and even a preferred walk-on slot on the team. And, to be fair, Drew Pyne has not been abysmal. It’s just that when you watch that Guinness ad in which NFL legend Joe Montana states that as a freshman at Notre Dame he worked himself down to seventh string, that should particularly sting to Notre Dame fans watching as they wonder what strings two through five on that team must have looked like and then compared it to who the Irish are currently sending onto the field. Next Saturday in Chapel Hill, Pyne will go up against Tar Heel redshirt frosh Drake Maye, who tossed nine TDs in his first two starts.

Drew Pyne was thrust into a role that, frankly, is above his pay grade considering the school he attends (this is not an Ian Book situation). He’d probably be a fairly decent Ivy League quarterback (his dad was a star player at Brown). But it’s on Notre Dame’s coaching staff that this is their Buchner backup.

By the way, quite a few legacy names on Notre Dame’s current roster: You’ve got a younger Eifert (bro of Tyler), a younger Hinish (bro of Kurt), a younger Ratigan (son of former player and team doc), a younger Powlus, a younger Salerno (his big bro’s still on roster), and even a younger Polian (son of former special teams coach). And I guess we’d have to add Jac Collinsworth to that mix. Now we don’t know how many of these players will pan out or are simply there to fluff up the team GPA and/or as legacy favors, but man, that’s a higher quotient for a team that is short on talent, no?

A couple of notes on Jac C.: as the swiftest-promoted legacy this side of Charlie Ebersol, he generally has done a solid job his first two broadcasts. Let’s be clear: he’d never have this gig minus his last name, but he’s been… fine. A couple of slip-ups we noticed besides the Hail Mary omission before halftime: 1) after a late Notre Dame punt rolled into the end zone, Jac noted that Cal would have the ball on its 25 (no, that’s just for kickoffs… it’s still the 20). 2) With the Irish bleeding clock late and facing a 3rd-and-8, Jac asked Garrett if you’d let Pyne throw here. I nearly choked on my Fresca. The fact that Garrett did not reply with a demonstrative, “NO!” was also disappointing.

And here is a look at Saturday’s officiating crew…

(Thank you, ARB; file this under “Jokes That Never Would’ve Run at The Athletic”)

Finally, that Cal Hail Mary pass should’ve worked. But I guess when you attempt a Hail Mary in the shadow of Hail Mary atop the dome against Her team, things may not fall your way.

College GameDay: The Bro Show II

Everyone’s entitled to their own preferred tailgate beverage: maybe you prefer a Bloody Mary or a craft beer. Maybe you’re a sicko and imbibe white zin. I’m not here to judge. But I’ve found myself not watching the Fox pre-game show because it’s too much three former college football bros living in a bubble (and reliving their glory days). I used to prefer College GameDay because of nonpareil host Rece Davis and a smattering of ages and viewpoints. The perfect number of panelists was three with Des, Herbie and the Coach, Lee Corso. It was like the Mod Squad if you subbed in an octogenarian for Peggy Lipton.

But now as Corso, understandably, cannot handle the rigors of a three-plus hour show (I’m a viewer and I can’t), ESPN has put both David Pollack AND Pat McAfee on the panel and it’s just another Bro Show.

First, less is more. Second, too many homogenous opinions. Third, it may just be us, but you can almost feel Desmond bristling at this new set-up (Hey, guys, remember I’m the only Heisman winner and/or Super Bowl MVP on this panel). Frankly, we don’t blame him.

We would suggest that Rece, who’s the single-most valuable talent ESPN’s college football universe has, is also aware of and not all that thrilled with the new set-up. On Saturday the show landed South Carolina coach Shane Beamer (a real Cock Commander) as he walked he field of Williams-Brice Stadium during pre-game warmups. McAfee noted that the last time that he and Beamer had seen one another was “on a private island when the power went out.” After the interview concluded, Davis quipped, ““Really sorry to hear about the first-world problems you guys are having on private islands.”

Yes. Exactly. Thank you, Rece. It truly is incredible how grounded Rece Davis remains. He may wonder if fans/viewers appreciate it. We do.

The B.S. Wonders…

If College GameDay cannot provide an insightful, objective view of college football in its three-hour window any more (and it doesn’t), does it really need to bleed over 10 minutes into its fourth hour just for its picks section? You’ll notice that games on Fox kick off promptly at noon Eastern time while those on Disney’s ESPN/ABC kicked off this weekend closer to 12:12. Delay of game on Norby… Is there so little imagination on Madison Avenue that, with more than 10,000 college football players to choose from, both Dr. Pepper and Nissan make Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young the player face of their campaigns? Young is a fabulous player, even a worthy Heisman winner as a sophomore, but where is the creativity? You’ve still got Smoke Monday (Auburn) out there, and Bumper Pool (Arkansas), and there must be some way to connect transferring your car insurance allegiance to a Jordan Addison or a Will Levis? I mean, can’t Stetson Bennett represent what happens to a product that is underappreciated but outperforms?… What exactly happened to Gus Johnson to cause him to miss the rest of the OU-Nebraska game, and wouldn’t it have been cool if Jenny Taft could have landed an exclusive one-on-one with Gus to find out?…

At the risk of piling on College GameDay (props for visiting the correct Boone after all, by the way), why head to Knoxville when you’ve got 3-0 USC at 3-0 Oregon State and, for the hoop heads, 3-0 Duke at 3-0 Kansas? So maybe the lyrics should read “We’re comin’/ To your ci-tay/If it’s east of/The Mississi-pay!”… Why did UCLA kick off in Pasadena at 11 a.m. local time? And why did South Alabama fake a 37-yard field goal when it would have iced the game with it (or if you’re going to go for it, why was THIS your play?). The Bruins would seconds later kick the game-winning FG to steal a win and stave off an embarrassing home loss?

… Who’s the wiseacre at Arkansas who scheduled Family Day to coincide with the return of Bobby Petrino (coaching SE Missouri State)? Good humor there… Don’t you love when a defensive back makes the “Incomplete” signal with his arms after a broken-up pass play only to discover there’s a yellow flag on the ground near him? The look of utter shock on his face EVERY single time is what seals it for us.

Hangin’ With Chad

We don’t know if we’ve ever been more wrong about anyone or anything than we were when we thought that Eli Manning was a goob. I mean, you saw him, especially as a young NY Giant, and he just looked like a …goober. But then the “Football On Your Phone” ad with big brother Peyton played and we thought, Maybe we were wrong about Eli. And there were those two Super Bowl wins, which overshadow all the career interceptions and lost seasons with the G-Men. And the Manning Cast. And now this, which has Ted Lasso-esque potential.

We were wrong, Eli. Long may you reign.

****

We don’ have the quote verbatim, and the TV was on mute at the time, but Fox ran USC wideout Jordan Addison’s hilarious quote on screen in which he said, in effect, “When you’re younger and you’re the fastest, , you get all the girls.” We wish we could have heard the commentator quips regarding that. Also, because we had it on mute, maybe you can tell us: Did anyone address the fact that Kedon Slovis exited USC for Pitt last February, because he knew Lincoln Riley had his own QB and partially because the Panthers had arguably the nation’s top receiver, Addison, only to see Addison depart Pitt three months later to play for… USC??? There’s got to be a story there. Maybe someone has already reported it.

And if you watched Addison’s performance versus Fresno State, he looks like an early Biletnikoff Award favorite?

About USC… we imagine a plethora of traditionalists are rooting against Lincoln Riley’s formula for success (the LeBron superteam model), but it sure looked potent on Saturday night with first-year transfers at WR, featured running back and QB. College football is beginning to look a lot like hoops, and while that may work for the renegade coaches, we don’t think it will be a healthy development for the sport in general. Stay tuned.

As always, if you’d like to contribute via PayPal, it’s trumansparks88@gmail.com. If not, that’s cool. Thank you to those who have. We see you.

THE ROBERT SARVER PROBLEM

by John Walters

Should I weigh in (don’t do it!)? But I want to weigh in (you’ll get canceled!). I’ve already been canceled; how much worse can this be (you’ll regret it!)? I know, but…

Earlier this afternoon I saw two tweets related to Robert Sarver, the Phoenix Suns owner who was fined $10 million and suspended for a year for behaving like a combination of Herb Tarlek and Louie DePalma. The first tweet, from a writer for The Athletic, expressed shock and disappointment that NBA commissioner Adam Silver said out loud what anyone who’s ever worked at a real company already knew: the boss or owner has a greater latitude to get away with stuff than the employees. The second tweet—it may have been from the same scribe, not sure—expressed disappointment that Sarver was only being fined $10 million because to that writer, that would be like the cost of a large iced tea.

So, if you’re keeping score, writer is upset that Sarver is treated differently because he’s wealthy, then writer is upset that Sarver is not treated differently because he’s wealthy. Anyone else see a disconnect here?

I’m no fan of Robert Sarver. Wasn’t a fan of his before Baxter Holmes’ story appeared last autumn and was certainly no fan after. If you live in Phoenix or grew up here and have friends who travel in the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley inner circle, you already know that Sarver is a blowhard real-estate mogul who bought the Suns to satisfy his insatiable ego. Like most Phoenix Suns fans, I’m hardly sorry to see him go and hope that he vanishes forever.

However, I’m also no fan of the handkerchief-wringing, back-of-the-palm-to-forehead “I do declare!” reaction to the revelations about the behavior of a boorish boss. Let’s take this from the top:

1. Last October Baxter Holmes wrote a thorough story about Sarver and the Phoenix Suns’ dysfunctional front office for ESPN.com. As I read it, I kept waiting for the big bomb to drop. In my opinion, it never did. Did Sarver go Weinstein on his female employees? No. Was there a familiar pattern of people being passed up for promotions or jobs based on their skin color, gender, sexual preferences or religion? As far as I can recall, no. Was Sarver a fatuous ass given to inappropriate comments and grab-ass frat boy stunts that came straight out of The Office? Yes.

2. Sarver and the Suns (under his direction) handled this awfully, of course, by attacking Holmes’ credibility and doing the usual song-and-dance of “innuendo, lies and bitter ex-employees.” Bad move there, Robert.

3. Commissioner Silver, who was probably well aware of all of this before last fall’s quasi-bombshell (Sarver had been owner of the Suns for 17 years by now and if you don’t think NBA staffers talk amongst each other and that some of this filters back to the league offices on Madison Ave., you’re nutso), veered directly into CYA mode. Even though Holmes’ piece had handed the Sarver bad behavior on an Adam Silver platter, the league went out and hired a law firm (the first rule is: lawyers get paid) who then spent 10 months and likely $3-4 million of the league’s money and then basically issued a report that said, “Yep, Baxter’s story checks out.” Wow, guys. Only college football coaching search firms are a bigger scam.

4. Silver brings down the hammer—one year’s suspension, $10 million—and the masses are able to tar and feather a rich white guy who was never all that likable in the first place as a “racist” and a “misogynist.” And they feel comfortable saying that such an environment is not a “safe” place to work simply because the boss and owner has no filter. Is he a racist? I don’t know (and neither do you). But in a social media world of “How many likes will this receive?” it’s always better to simply go along with the aggrieved masses than to, I don’t know, make a valid point.

***

As I understand it, and correct me if I’m wrong, the most recent incidence of Sarver pronouncing the N-word in full was in 2017—five years ago— and in all five cases they found, he was using it while “recounting the statements of others.” In other words, something like, “Hey, Coach Watson, how come Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight casually address one another as n***** but I cannot?” If I hear that, I don’t think of Sarver as racist. I think of him as someone who has yet to learn that there’s no circumstance in which a white male is allowed to use that term. Yes, it’s a double standard and yes, to me, it seems like a perfectly logical question to ask, especially for a man from his generation, but the difference between Sarver and I is that we’ve had very different paths in life and I’ve learned that there’s just no time you should ever utter the word. The moment you begin to ask why the double standard exists you’ll be accused of “mansplaining.”

You are either a person who lives according to principles or one who accedes to the cult of personality. The principle-ist in me does not believe in double standards (and yes, I realize that my African-American brethren use the word as a means of stripping it of its power) and certainly not circumstantial ones. If you beat the drum for equality for all but also “not equality for you in some cases,” then you do not live by a guiding principle (see the example at the top of this story).

Based only on this evidence (and that’s all that was presented), I would not go so far as to call Sarver racist. Rather, it just seems he never received the memo as to the racial sensitivity mores of the present. One thing I’ve learned from teaching at the college level, particularly grad students, is that young people of this era are particularly implacable when it comes to the older generation not adjusting to their terminology. It’s not about whether you are a racist or a misogynist, it’s whether you sound like one (the Archie Bunker Syndrome). I recall last spring one of my favorite former students, who is the grand daughter of former NFL quarterback Craig Morton, arranged for him to speak to our class. This is a man who started at quarterback in two Super Bowls, who played 17 seasons in the NFL and coached a few years in the USFL. I found it incredibly gracious of Mr. Morton, 79 years of age, to give so much time to our class (via Zoom) and thought that here is someone who has worked alongside men of different colors and backgrounds and seemed extremely well-adjusted.

At some point, late in the conversation, Mr. Morton used a term to describe an ethnic group (I believe) that was at best dated. He certainly did not use the N-word, but he used a word that would’ve been perfectly acceptable in his day but not so much now among Gen Z. I noticed a few of my students making eye contact with one another, sharing knowing smiles. See, the old white guy’s a racist. At that moment I felt sorry for my students; for their judgmental, know-it-all-ness. For their utter lack of empathy for a man, nearly 80 years old, who obviously intended no harm and just hadn’t received the latest update from Urban Dictionary and Twitter as to what’s acceptable. I thought, They’re more interested in sounding decent than being decent. I don’t know if my former student, Morton’s granddaughter, noticed their sidelong glances. I hoped she did not.

****

As for Sarver’s misogyny, may I introduce you to Robert Kraft? Jerry Jones? Just about every NFL or NBA owner in existence? Does that make it right? No, but what is the ultimate aim here? One of my former students reached out to me yesterday, upset that I wasn’t in lockstep with most of the media in denouncing Sarver, and asked if I’d feel safe working in such an environment? Safe?!? Because my boss is a male chauvinist? I have to wonder, who is watching those episodes of The Office that run non-stop, I mean like seven hours per night, on one of the cable networks? I mean, someone must be tuning in, and someone must find it funny and relatable because, taken to an extreme degree, it mirrors his or her own cubicle workplace.

No, it’s not cool that Sarver complained about female workers out on maternity leave (but they were out on maternity leave, no? He didn’t stop them). No, it’s not cool that Sarver made a comment about a female employee’s breasts. Not cool at all. You know what’s really not cool? A boss having an affair with a female employee that winds up derailing her career when at last you decide to run back to your wife (I witnessed this first hand in my own career and I’ve seen that scenario play out multiple times, and those men suffered no consequences).

Over the past day I’ve thought back to the work place sitcoms of the 1970s and 1980s that I grew up watching: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, Taxi, Alice, Cheers and WKRP in Cincinnati. Each of these shows had the requisite male chauvinist pig (Ted Baxter, Frank Burns, Louie, Mel, Sam and Herb Tarlek) to varying degrees. They had strong female characters. They had male characters who today would be considered “woke” (Murray, Hawkeye, Alex, Andy Travis). They had, it should be noted, almost no black characters. But as I thought back about these programs that I watched during my formative years (and about All In The Family), I was reminded that the community of the work place regulated itself. If Herb acted too much like an ass—and he almost always did—he felt the scorn not of Twitter but of the people with whom he worked. Same went for Louie.

The important thing is that people were allowed to be themselves and say what they wanted, and that if they veered too far outside of what was acceptable, they felt the wrath of their co-workers. But no one ever thought it was a good idea to send Louie to sensitivity training. When Mel made an insensitive comment to Flo, she didn’t run to HR. She clapped back, “Kiss my grits!’ and they moved on.

I don’t defend any of the things that Robert Sarver said or did. I do worry about who decides what is out of line, how much thinner the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable behavior become, and how quick we are to label people (especially if we don’t like them). I worry about the idea that nobody is allowed to be offended any more, that that is more sacrosanct than candor or truth. And I especially worry about the cult of personality: the idea that it’s okay to crucify people we don’t like while we protect those we do like for committing the same or even worse sins.

When people say that we need diversity in the workplace, I agree. But we also thrive on diversity of opinions, experiences, viewpoints. Which does not mean your workplace is better for having a Robert Sarver; it’s not. But it’s also not better if everyone is Alex Reigert or that milquetoast middle manager who never has the guts to take a stand. I’ve worked in all sorts of jobs (journalism, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels) in the past 30 years and all I want from a boss is someone who’s a straight shooter, whom I can trust, and who doesn’t hold anyone more accountable than he holds himself or herself. And finally, who can take as well as he or she gives.

Robert Sarver is an ass. But the only reason he has been served up for crucifixion is because Baxter Holmes forced the NBA to deal with an issue it was already well aware of and the NBA also knew that nobody likes Robert Sarver.

Finally, I wrote this quickly and without reviewing. I’ll suffer the consequences if you want to roast me for this take.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

GOPfellas*

*The judges will also accept “The Last Subpoena” (not ours), “The Back Nein”, “World’s Worst Dockers Ad,” “Eight Men Out… On A Hole With A-Hole,” “They’re Literally Standing In A Swamp”

We don’t know what more needs to be written—no one here brought golf clubs, not even a putter— but things must be pretty mad for Mohammed to go to the mountain (i.e., D.C.) as opposed to the other way around. If you’re keeping score, half the minions here have hands on hips as if to indicate, “Maybe all of our lies and grifting won’t be able to get us out of this pickle. Our last hope is a GOP win in 2024 followed by a pardon.”

Wilson, Cast Away

It might have been a Hall of Fame career. Maybe it is, anyway. But after last night’s debacle in the stadium he called home for 10 seasons, Russell Wilson’s legacy may be that of the innocent victim of two of the worst coaching decisions anyone can recall. Last night, with his new team, the Denver Broncos, trailing his former squad, the Seattle Seahawks, 17-16 with just under one minute to play, Wilson’s offense faced a 4th-and-5 from the Seahawk 47. Of course you don’t punt. You go for it, right? I mean, it’s a 64-yard field goal try and this is the new QB you paid $160 Mil for.

The Broncos sent the field goal unit onto the field. Wide left. Final score: Seahawks 17, Broncos 16.

Couple this with Darren Bevell’s slant pass on 2nd-and-goal from the 1 in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, and Wilson must feel absolutely as if he’s playing against more than just the opposing defense.

Contrarian opinion: the Bronco kicker, Brandon McManus, had already connected on FGs of 30, 40 and 26 yards and was thus the game’s leading scorer. Go with the hot foot.

Trout-standing Effort

If it feels as if Angel-in-the-outfield Mike Trout has missed half the season, well, he’s only missed one-third of the season. But he still has blasted 35 home runs (third-best in the majors), boosted by one in each of the past seven games. The MLB record is one in eight consecutive games. Couple this with his former Angel teammate Albert Pujols’ recent homer surge—he’s now just three shy of 700 and no one from July’s home run derby has hit more since that night than Albert—and Aaron Judge’s chase of Roger Maris is only the third-most intriguing home run chase of the month.

By the way, if you’re scoring at home, three of the greatest players of this century—Trout, Pujols and Shohei Ohtani—have combined for zero playoff wins as Los Angeles Angels, a streak that will be extended this season. Baseball’s just different.

The Sarver is Down

BREAKING NEWS: The NBA has suspended Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for one year for, among other things, using the N-word FIVE TIMES (I have to wonder how many times Chris Paul uses the N-word per day). So the going rate is 2 months, 6 days per N-word? Okay. Good to know. Sarver should really appeal his suspension to the AIA (inside joke for Phoenicians). No word yet on whether the NBA will appoint Blake Masters interim owner.

The Runaways

When the invasion of Ukraine began—fittingly, just a day or two after the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics from Beijing (this had all been mapped out between Putin and Xi)—Russia had everything tilted in its favor with one major exception: a righteous cause. So here we are, seven months later and Russian soldiers are fleeing for their lives. And who can blame them? They know that their cause and their leader are corrupt and who wants to give his life for that?

We’d find it very funny if the bully (Russia/Putin) started whining if Ukraine’s military crossed over into Russia and started kicking ass. If I were Zelensky, and I’m not, I’d mount some offensives and inflict some pain on the Russkies, telling them, “We’ll stop when you hand over Vladimir Putin.” Of course Putin would pull a Hitler (suicide) before he allowed that to happen, but that would be a suitable outcome. Vladimir Putin needs to be punished for this war.

THE BUBBA SCREEN

by John Walters

We only watched Tide-Texas this weekend (and parts of Notre Dame’s failed Marshall Plan), so we’ll keep it relatively brief. Thanks to all of you who accepted the invitation to contribute via PayPal (trumansparks88@gmail.com) last week. Very kind of you.

An Early Frost

Scott Frost, wow. If anyone seemed a better fit to return to his alma mater than Frost once did, that’s only because you went to school in Ann Arbor. Frost was Nebraska’s golden boy, a Wood River native who returned home after one season at Stanford and then played quarterback on the Huskers’ national championship team. In 2016 he led UCF to a 13-0 record (and, if you live in Orlando, a national championship). It seemed destiny that Frost would restore NU to greatness.

It was not to be. Frost departs Lincoln and his alma mater with a 16-31 record (.340), the worst mark since Bill Jennings went 15-34-1 (.310) between 1957-61. After that came Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, a 36-year reign of dominance that included five national championships and ZERO losing seasons. None. That’s an almost impossible standard to live up to.

We can talk about all the reasons it went wrong (one is below) or about $7.5 million Nebraska is costing itself by not waiting until Oct. 1 to can Frost, but we’ll just focus on the fact that Frost took UCF to a 13-0 season in 2016, that he was smack dab in the midst of the most fertile recruiting ground in the country (Orlando) and that his school’s student body was among the top three largest in the country. Not to mention that Miami, FSU and UF were all down. If there were ever bright neon signs telling you to stay, well, I don’t know what else Frost needed to see. He was the king of Orlando’s other Magic Kingdom and he lacked the foresight to see it. We understand the gravitational pull of “grand old ivy,” but in this instance Frost would have been better off heeding the lyrics of Steely Dan: “And I’m never going back to my old school.”

One more thing: As kooky as Jim Harbaugh can occasionally seem, he does seem to connect with his players. The kooky actually works for him. I never sensed that Frost jibed with his players. Maybe he did, but from afar it did not seem as if he did. And it’s odd, because Harbaugh actually had the better NFL career. If anyone would seem to be entitled to have the bigger ego, to be more aloof, it would be Coach Khaki.

Austin Powers

I’m not telling you anything you do not already know or believe: college football yeans for more games such as Alabama at Texas. We fans desire 1) big boy matchups 2) between intersectional schools that 3) take place on campus.

I’m sure Nick wasn’t thrilled with playing this game, but everyone else was. And the contest lived up to the hype, as Texas nearly pulled it off, 20-19. If Sark had a chance to do it over, you’d hope he’d have taken a few more chances after that beauty pass route tree put the Longhorns deep in Bama territory late. The Horns settled for a field goal, gaining zero yards on three plays. It’s series such as that where you’ve got to establish your identity as a team. Channel your inner Chris Petersen, if you have one.

One thing to take note of: this was a body clock game for Bama. Playing in unfamiliar territory, as a true road team, with an 11 a.m. body clock (and local) kickoff. And Bama commits more penalties than it ever has under Saban while receivers drop multiple catchable balls from Bryce Young, who looked every bit the worthy defending Heisman winner. What we’re trying to say is, Look upon your future, USC and UCLA, and remember, you’re going to be venturing much farther but without as much talent.

Finally, about that terrible call in the end zone: it for sure was never targeting. It was never even roughing the passer. Technically, Young was still not down. If anything, to us, it was intentional grounding, which should have resulted in a safety. Texas got burned.

Quarterback-pedaling

Texas and Notre Dame, two of the biggest names in college football, both lose their starting QBs to similar injuries. The Longhorns lose Quinn Ewers for at least September while the Irish lost Tyler Buchner for the entire season. How to evaluate? Well, if you’re Texas, you now have TWO losses to Alabama in which you lost your starter in the first half (the only two losses in school history to Bama of the 10 games played). We’ll never know if the Burnt Orange could have beaten the Crimson Tide with Ewers on Saturday, but they still only lost by a point. That’s as much a reflection of how much Bama has backslid the past couple of seasons as it is Texas’ resurgence. But give UT credit: they held their own on both lines. Not sure if Texas is back, but they’re no longer soft.

Ralph sent this after Ewers’ beauty throw to Xavier Worthy, but just before the hit from Dallas Turner…

The Irish loss is more devastating. Buchner was really Notre Dame’s most potent weapon as a runner and, even though he didn’t have a great passing game (two picks, one a pick-six), he is a weapon. Drew Pyne is a 5’11” gamer type from New Canaan (that’s where NBC Sports executives live; not where NBC Sports featured athletes are supposed to hail from), Conn. Pyne looked okay in limited duty versus Wisconsin last September, but now he must run an ND offense whose line has looked inept thus far (the season’s biggest mystery as the Irish are supposed to have both the beef and the perfect O-line coach) and whose running backs are not about to make anyone forget Karen Williams. Tight end Michael Mayer and sophomore wideout Lorenzo Styles: those are your two weapons.

By the way, Styles’ 54-yard reception on the first play of the season is still more than twice the distance of any other Notre Dame offensive play this season.

To think that the Irish were beating Oklahoma State 28-7 in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl, Freeman’s coaching debut, on New Year’s Day.

When Did Terry Bowden Become Jiminy Glick?

When The Shift Hits The Fan

Why are we mentioning baseball’s decision to ban the shift beginning next season in a college football column? Because the two are related. For the record, we’re not fans of the shift, but we are even less fans of outlawing it. Sports competition is about more than simply physical talent. It’s also about strategy and cunning and using your brain (as is war, by the way; ask Mr. Zelensky or the army who won the American Revolution).

Between 1973-1988, 13 of the 16 Heisman Trophy winners were running backs. The other three were Doug Flutie (unicorn), Vinny Testaverde (legit NFL QB) and Tim Brown (great player but also a symbol of Not Dame’s resurgence). Heisman winners were talented running backs who played for great teams that had superior beef on the O-line, too. Then about 1989 this fella named John Jenkins at Houston develops a wide-open offense where five-wide is in vogue (he may have taken it from Mouse Davis when he was the USFL Houston Gamblers; not sure).

Anyway, no one had ever played big-time football going four wide, much less five wide. Suddenly, running backs were not winning Heisman Trophies very much. Suddenly, scores and records at Houston were just plain silly, as Ander Ware won a Heisman and David Klingler probably should have. People didn’t take these scores or QB passing records seriously; just as people refused to accept the Tampa Bay Rays’ shifts when they started employing them.

An empty backfield: we’re not in the Seventies or Eighties any more

But you know what? Now everyone in college football, including Nick Saban, uses three-, four- and five-wide sets. Most teams pass more than they run, or at least just as much. No one cares who the nation’s leading rusher is anymore, as it has little to do with how successful a team is. Spreading the field wide was the antidote for teams with less talent to offset the superior interior beef that the best schools had. And it was so successful that it forced everyone to adapt.

Now, you may prefer the days of the “heavy-legged backs,” as Frank Broyles described them. You may long for Bo Jackson and Marcus Dupree, and we get it. But Jenkins was not breaking any existing rules; neither was Joe Maddon. Both men were innovators (as was Gen. George Washington) who realized that, by fighting the traditional way, they stood little chance of success. However, by operating within the rules but outside traditional means, they all found success. So why would you want to punish anyone for that? It’s downright un-American. If Washington had fought that way, we’d all be speaking English now. Wait. Well, you know what I mean.

The idea that baseball needs to protect a certain type of player (the pull-hitting slugger) is another way of saying it must penalize a hitter who can beat the shift. In other words, baseball is creating a new rule to protect the status uo. That, to us, is not only just wrong. It’s un-American.

union

Get Back, Nebraska (and you too, OU and A&M)

Perhaps there’s zero connection to Saturday’s failures in College Station and Lincoln, where schools that already departed to a pair of the two real power conferences of the future (B1G, SEC) lost at home to Group of 5 schools: A&M to App. State and Nebraska to Georgia Southern. But then again, maybe there is connection.

Our advice, and no one will take it, because short-term $$$ always trumps long-term vision with college presidents: the Big 12 desperately needs to get the band back together. Consider, if you will, a conference consisting of these dozen schools: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, Texas A&M. Would you be intrigued by that conference? I sure as heck would.

Plus, this conference meets my No. 1 standard: geographic integrity. The farthest two campuses from one another are probably Ames and College Station, which is still less than 1,000 miles. Not a weekend road trip, but almost every other game is. You’ve got no fewer than four blue-blood schools on this list and then at least three to five others who’ll give anyone a scare on any given Saturday.

Now, as we all know, the Huskers started this avalanche in 2011 when they fled to the Big Ten. The following year they advanced to the B1G Championship Game, where Wisconsin waxed them, 70-31. Nebraska has not come close since and in fact the school’s record since the day before that game is 63-63. Their new mascot should be a two-headed coin.

The Aggies followed suit a year later, going the SEC in 2012. Since then Aggie alums DudePerfect have been much sharper. The school whose helmet spells out “ATM” has been exactly that for its coaching staff, but the Aggies have only advanced to the SEC Championship Game… we’re adding up the figures… zero times. Six different schools have advanced to the SEC championship game in the past decade, including fellow Big 12 refugee Mizzou, but A&M has not.

School presidents, ADs and Twitter stans can talk all day about how the decision to take a larger TV payout by joining a more mega conference has benefited their school, but I’m a fan. I don’t care about your balance sheet. I care about your W-L record. And none of these schools—sorry, Joel, “brands”—have improved themselves by abandoning the Big 12. Not to mention that it has hurt college football. Now Oklahoma and Texas are going to join the SEC. That’s great for Greg Sankey. It’s not great for OU or Texas fans, especially since we’re still only allowing two schools to compete in the SEC championship game.

The Big 12, much like David S. Pumpkins, was “it’s own thing.” And that was just fine. They should have left well enough alone. I don’t know how many years or even decades of mediocrity it’s going to take before they finally have that epiphany. But you heard it here first (and I’ve been preaching it on Twitter for a decade now).

This Is Why College GameDay Is Headed To Boone, N.C., Next Saturday

The B.S. Wonders…

What good is a sideline reporter if they are unable to provide any meaningful update on an injured quarterback’s status on the biggest game of the day? We know it isn’t easy, but this is Job 1 if you are Jenny Taft (and yes, we love Jenny, too). You’ve got to be plugged in with the medical staffs at both schools and maybe you need a producer who tells you not to leave the locker room door, or even to follow along if a player as important as the starting quarterback is taken to a hospital…If you knew that Joe Flacco threw 59 passes for the New York Jets on Sunday and Joe Namath threw 59 passes for the New York Jets in 1971… Is Dan Mullen doing it for you over on ESPN? He’s not doing it for me thus far… Why did GameDay wait until after Week 1 to announce the Pat MacAfee reunion? And why must Lee Corso spend all season looking over his shoulder?…

THE BUBBA SCREEN

by John Walters

It’s not that the B.S. entered the transfer portal; it’s more like our institution chose not to renew our scholarship. So we’re taking it here. This is hardly a compendium of all the weekend’s games, as we only sat down to watch a few. It’s merely a smattering. And while this is free, you are welcome to submit a PayPal donation (trumansparks88@gmail.com) if you wish (my total revenue won’t be much different, considering what I was being paid) and, as always, to sound off in the comments and remind me that I wrote “Hawkeyes” when I meant to write “Cyclones,” or any other gaffes you notice.

Welcome back, College Football

Klatt Klapback

Pardon us as we deconstruct Fox’s Joel Klatt’s argument here from his show that aired in the middle of last week. From the top…

0:37 “This (conference realignment) was inevitable.” Okay, Joel, care to tell us why? Joel goes on to explain that “BRANDS” like Oklahoma and Texas and USC and UCLA needed to look out for themselves because they were carrying their respective conferences (Big 12, Pac-12) and if they wanted to compete with SEC or B1G TV money, they had to align with one of the two. Fair enough, but what are these schools sacrificing by making these moves? I’d argue a lot (see: Nebraska football). But Joel never address the potential downside (hope you like that cross-country trip to play Maryland and Rutgers, USC men’s tennis).

Moreover, Joel never mentions that these maneuvers are not only greatly beneficial to his employer, Fox Sports, but may even have been influenced by it.

1:48 “Like you’d have to be buried under a rock to not understand that” i.e. If you disagree with my central point, you’re an idiot. Way to win over the contrarian side. It’s a moment such as this that explains the vast gulf between Klatt and Kirk (and let’s face it, Fox hired Klatt to be its own blond Herbie doll). Instead of attempting to at least meet a potentially opposing view halfway, Klatt simply says that anyone who disagrees with his premise is buried under a rock.

1:57 “So, this was somewhat inevitable.” Actually, it wasn’t. Joel’s basically saying that a school such as USC needs to have greater overall revenue in order to compete against the Michigans and Alabamas of the world. Except that it doesn’t. Ask Clemson. The Tigers don’t have an SEC deal but they’ve carved up their own niche in their own conference and they’r doing quite well, thank you. I’d argue, and last I looked I’m not buried under a rock, that a USC has the No. 1 metropolitan area in the USA (New York City has more people but fewer football players), with outstanding weather and near the fastest growing population centers in the USA (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, etc.) and that USC would be better off planting its flag in Hollywood and claiming to be King of the West. The Trojans might not get as sweet of a TV deal, per se, but there are a number of intangible factors that would ultimately be to its advantage and, at the end of the day, winning national championships or at least coming close behooves a school—sorry, a brand— more than a conference TV deal in a conference your school has no geographic or traditional connection to. Again, see Nebraska. Joel also fails to mention that USC and UCLA are going to have four road trips to the Midwest or East coast each season (closest possible foe: Nebraska, which is still nearly half a continent away) and in odd-numbered years, USC will have five. FIVE major road trips. Of course Lincoln Riley and Chip Kelly will downplay this and will probably note how Oregon went back to Columbus and beat Ohio State last fall, but there’s quite a difference between one major road trip per season and more than one per month. Not to mention them SoCal boys playing in that November weather. It’s going to add up to more losses, which is going to add up to less of a chance to factor into a playoff, which is going to lead to fan apathy, not to mention that USC fans may get stoked for that Ann Arbor trip but who’s traveling back to Illinois or Purdue?

2:10 to 3:10 “The evolution of college football” treatise. Joel’s lecture on how conferences have evolved is accurate, but again, he fails to note that not all evolution has been for the best. There’s a lot of us who miss the Southwest Conference. There’s a lot that’s been lost by not having an annual Nebraska-Oklahoma game (Big 8) or an annual Texas-Texas A&M game (SWC). So, just because it has “evolved<” dues not mean all changes were beneficial. Not to mention that USC and UCLA joining the B1G is an entirely different beast since there’s not even a passing nod to geographic sanity. Look at it this way: Boston College and Miami both play in the ACC, and we can take note of what a distant road trip game that is when they play. Do you realize that Miami to Boston is CLOSER than ANY B1G road trip USC/UCLA will be playing once it jumps conferences? Look at a map, Joel.

Play of the day: Georgia freshman Malaki Starks’ INT in the first half of his first college game was special

3:55 “I think this wringing of hands like, ‘Oh, this is destroying the sport!’, that’s not really the case.” Once again, if you disagree with Joel, you’re an idiot. And once again, Joel fails to present what contrarian arguments might exist. We could go on for hours discussing why conference realignment is not fan-friendly. Is Texas A&M better for college football fans (esp. those in Texas) or is better for A&M (in the short term)? Was UConn jumping out of the Big East for football beneficial to the school’s true marquee teams, its men’s and women’s hoops squads? Hell no. Would college football be far better off if schools remained in their regions so that West Virginia was playing Pitt and Penn State annually as opposed to Baylor and TCU? I certainly think so. But again, Joel chooses not to address any opposing view and while he does say that these moves are made for “financial security and stability, which are related,” there’s no shortage of arguments I can make that demonstrate that selling your football soul for a TV deal may not in the long run be beneficial. Yet another example: Penn State, which was more of a powerhouse before it joined the B1G.

4:10 “I understand that it’s not easy for some, I understand that it’s not palatable” Pardon my take here, but as Joel was saying this I was picturing President DeSantis, in his first State of the Union speech, GOP-splaining why the end of democracy was “inevitable” and that while he understands that fascism “is not easy for some” that this is the way forward.

4:45 “Right now I would argue, and most would argue that are involved in the sport, that it’s never been better” Translation: a bunch of us who have a dedicated financial interest in college football’s success want you to know that college football has never been better. Right off the bat, this is like having the CEO of Fortune 500 company on as a guest on CNBC and asking him how his company’s doing. Do you really expect Joel to mention that attendance at games is down, that the length of games is creeping up toward four hours, that fans, while most understand that players have earned more rights and money, aren’t exactly crazy about how the transfer portal is like watching your single mom rotate through boyfriends (“Hey, who’s that strange guy coming out of mom’s room?”)?

4:58 Joel goes off on how great college football is and how it’s never been better, sounding not unlike Beck Bennett’s impersonation Vin Diesel waxing poetic about “the mooo-vies.”

6:18 “You’ve got two clear leaders now, in the SEC and the Big Ten, and they’re going to be able to fix some of these issues” Are they? When Joel says the SEC and the B1G, what you as the fan should hear are “ESPN and Fox.” Basically, because no one was ever in charge of college football, they stepped in and took over. And this is the point that someone with seven minutes of air should’ve been making in the first place. ESPN and Fox look at the tremendous numbers the NFL garners and their wonks and consultants decide, We’re gonna model college football after the NFL: the SEC and B1G will be the NFC and AFC and everyone else drops out; we’ll expand the playoff to 12 teams, because look at the crazy numbers NFL playoff games do; by siphoning off the Oregon States and Virginia Techs of college football, that’s more money for the big dogs. Will all of these changes ultimately be palatable to the college football fan? Remains to be seen. For this particular college football fan, who always embraced the idiosyncratic nature of the sport, the weirdness, it will not be. But for someone such as Joel, who stands to personally earn a lot more as Fox and ESPN work to transform college football into Saturday NFL, it will be.

*****

The “old dudes who run everything” sign his paycheck. Yes, we need more Backyard Brawl (maybe some time after Sept. 1, too). Appreciate Ryan going public with this, but I hope he appreciates that the Mouse being around and taking charge the past 25 years is why games like this have vanished.

Direct From Donald Trump’s Playbook*

*Who cares if it’s illegal? Let’s see if it works…

It’s just about unprecedented to attempt a punt after you cross the line of scrimmage, so how can we be sure it’s a penalty if we’ve never seen a flag? If you’re the S.C. State coaches, you appeal to the refs to appoint a Special Master to decide if the play should stand.

Irish Redux

Similarities between Marcus Freeman’s first two games as Notre Dame coach:

–both opponents had initial OSU

–both games played in a state that begins and ends with same vowel

–Irish led at halftime and in fact for more than half the contest

–Irish shut down in second half, scoring 7 points in the Fiesta Bowl and 0 last Saturday

–Irish fail to rush for 100 yards as a team

–Irish lost

Things will improve this Saturday versus Marshall. By the way, had you forgotten (I had) that Jack Coan threw for 509 yards and five TDs in that Fiesta Bowl defeat to Oklahoma State? Coan, waived by the Indy Colts last week, is currently a free agent.

The Fansville Postman Always Rings Twice

She was with this guy…

Did you also notice that Hot Mom from Fansville was seated on the couch next to not her husband, but rather FacePaint Dude, when she admonishes him for “fansplaining?” They sure seemed like a couple, no? But that’s not the guy she was with the first few seasons. As one tweep suggested, perhaps she too has entered the transfer portal.

…but has she moved on to him? Or maybe they’re siblings? We need to know!

Ye Olde Testament

Jim Harbaugh’s “biblical” quip from earlier in the week was unavoidable, so props to College GameDay’s Rece Davis for dropping in “exegesis” (“a critical explanation of scripture”) on the discussion and even more props to Lee Corso, who bluntly explained that the Good Book had nothing to do with Harbaugh’s quarterback conundrum, but rather the transfer portal did. If he wants to keep Mc-Squared in Ann Arborh, he needs to find playing time for both Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. This strategy (alternating starters) works for the CSU’s and Hawaii’s on the schedule; the real test comes when Michigan State arrives and when the MGoBlues visit Columbus…

Mark Jones-ing

“An indecorous, ignominious start” to describe how Colorado State began at Michigan. Indecorous or ignominious, but why provide a surfeit of sesquipedalian terms?

*****

“Starting classes, to learn the system… maybe not in that order”

–ESPN’s Sean McDonough, dropping a truth bomb while discussing why so many incoming frosh at Georgia start at the beginning of spring semester last January. By the way, the pioneer of this practice of entering college right after Christmas was none other than former Georgia QB Eric Zeier.

The B.S. Wonders

… Why didn’t Katie George ask Florida State’s Mike Norvell, moments after his fourth-and-goal gambit failed just before halftime, what led him to eschew an easy field goal and go for the points?… A TCM Wonders moment: Why do they call the film Across The Pacific if almost the entire 1942 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet (yes, the same crew from 1941’s The Maltese Falcon) takes place on a freighter sailing from Halifax to the Panama Canal?… Would early September games in California draw better if kickoff happened at dusk? Glances at the Rose Bowl, Coliseum, San Diego State’s and Stanford’s crowds showed plenty more vacant seats than people? Then again, when Arizona is the best visitor of the four, what should you expect?… Anyone got a bead 6’7″ on how tall 6’7″ FSU wide receiver 6’7″ Johnny Wilson 6’7″ is?… If you heard ESPN’s Dustin Fox refer to Ohio State’s offense as “our offense” during the waning moments of the TCU-Colorado game? Fox was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes, so we’ll let it slide—this time… Have you ever seen a school score 40 points in the fourth quarter and lose, as App. State did against North Carolina on Saturday? That game was 2014 Bahamas Bowl-crazy… How many years until we get a televised national high school football championship? Four teams, each representing a distinct region, as opposed to an overall Top 4. If you can do it with the Little League World Series, it’s bizarre that no one has thought to do it with high school football yet. Or maybe they have, but have yet to execute it for reasons unbeknownst to us…. Hear us out: a Bon Jovi tribute band that plays bluegrass instruments: Banjovi…. If you heard that Bo Nix’s wife is named Izzy Smoke? The best new name in college football belongs to a WAG! And yes, to think that when he was back at Auburn he was a teammate of Smoke Monday while dating Izzy Smoke. So that if she’d chosen another Tiger, she could be Izzy Smoke-Monday, which would have been glorious…. If like me, you’re old enough to remember when the last thing you wanted to be in sports was “the goat?”…

There was so much scoring in the final quarter of App State-UNC that it broke espn.com’s Scoring Summary

Tennis Detour (If Chris Fowler Can Take One, Why Can’t We?)

Um, maybe not

Chris Fowler took few moments to post a Serena Williams tribute in which he said, “Let’s focus for a few minutes on the legacy she leaves, which will never be equaled, the towering achievements that will never be equaled…” Okay, let’s focus on that and let’s wonder how and why this narrative overtook tennis and sports in the past fortnight. If Serena is your all-time favorite tennis player, or even just all-time favorite women’s tennis player (or athlete), that’s cool. If you consider her to be the greatest women’s tennis player ever, that’s also cool. But here’s the thing: it’s HIGHLY debatable.

–Let’s look at grand slams, which seem for most to be the gold-standard of tennis summit metrics. Serena won 23, which is one fewer than Margaret Court and one more than Steffi Graf. Now, if you want to dismiss Court’s court accomplishments because she played mostly before the Open era, fine. Then can I not dismiss Serena’s accomplishment because she played in TWENTY-SIX more Grand Slams than Steffi and yet only won one more? Or can I note that Steffi’s contemporaries included Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles, among others, while Serena dealt mostly with her sister and Maria Sharapova?

–You wanna go by singles titles in general? Serena (73) is in SEVENTH place behind Court (192), Martina (167), Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Yvonne Goolagong and Suzanne Lenglen.

— Best single-season win % . She’s one of seven who went undefeated in a year, but Graf won more games in her perfect year, as did Court and Mo Connolly.

–Consecutive matches won streak? She’s not in the top ten for the longest unbeaten streak.

— Career win %? She’s in seventh place (85.15%), behind Lenglen (98%), Helen Wills, Court, Evert, Graf and Navratilova.

Is she the most successful hard-court player? Yes, she has the most titles on hard courts. Is she the most successful non-white player? Absolutely. Did she come from the furthest point away to begin to where she rose to? Well, if you saw King Richard you’d say yes, but Martina came from an East Bloc country in the midst of the Cold War, and she’d probably have a few points to make on that front.

Do you want to argue that Serena could beat any of these women in their primes? Go ahead, but having seen Martina and Steffi at their best, I’m not so sure that’s true.

Point being, it’s cool to celebrate Serena’s career without dismissing all of those who preceded her. Particularly when the empirical evidence shows that these narratives that no one else will ever equal what she has done is patently false. Recency bias has a tendency to cloud judgments.

Timing Is Everything

Just as ESPN’s Dave Flemming was saying “They don’t have any classic pass rushers on this Arkansas team” in the fourth quarter off their game versus Cincinnati, a Hog rusher strip-sacked the Bearcat QB and Arkansas recovered. Flemming may be correct, but still, that was funny.

More On Fowler

Fowler endured a forgettable first half in Columbus, as he called, “TOUCHDOWN!” on an Ohio State end zone pass that fell incomplete and then later wondered, “Is that an interception?” on what would turn out to be the most balletic catch of the game (by former Notre Dame walk-on Matt Salerno). He’s probably hyper-aware of both errors and likely a little salty that anyone would be calling it out. But it comes with the territory.

Granted, Fowler was probably watching this live as opposed to on the monitor (which is one reason execs argue that broadcasters could call just as good a game from their basements and save the networks tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses), and his view was probably obstructed by the OSU bench. Still, this is why you wait until you know. Fowler called this game on Saturday and then then Medvedev-Krygios match from the U.S. Open on Sunday, but that’s something he does by choice. No one is compelling him to do this. So, at least here, pulling double-duty is no excuse to be less than terrific at either. This has always been an ego thing for Fowler, and he has the friends in high places at Bristol to pull it off. He’s a solid announcer and a very astute individual when it comes to storing info. But there’s almost no one outside of Bristol who thinks that he’s the top broadcaster at ESPN in football and I’m sure some diehard tennis fans have preferred announcers (we don’t know enough to say). But mistakes such as Saturday’s in Columbus give rise to the notion that it’s not really about serving the best interests of the viewer. Sean McDonough is flat-out better calling a game, for starters.

ABC had an overall bad game to open its prime-time season. Not once but twice did they cut to a shot of a Notre Dame assistant when Fowler/Herbie were discussing them, and both times the camera zeroed in on the wrong coach. That’s obviously not the booth’s fault. You have to be better than that.

FSU-LSU

Now this was a wonderfully flawed game, which is to say a paragon of a college football game. You had a bizarre injury (Maason Smith tore his ACL celebrating a tackle early in the first quarter; you’ll never convince me that FieldTurf does not cause more ACL injuries; the body thinks it’s cutting/landing on grass, which has a little more give, and fails to brace properly. It’s like when you think you’ve got one more step and you’re actually at the bottom of the landing and you land differently), you had a PERFECTLY executed flea flicker, you had two muffed punts, you had the snake-pit escape for LSU when the Seminoles die the only possible thing wrong you could do to let the Tigers off the mat, you had the heroic 99-yard touchdown drive, and then then you had the blocked PAT. Honestly, if LSU special teams coach Brian Polian was not told to clean out his office after Sunday night, he never will be.

Anyway, all of it was magnificent. It felt like a bowl game. Now, we don’t know why they felt the need to hand out a trophy for a non-conference game with no history, but hey, it’s college football. One man’s old oaken bucket is another’s Louisiana Classic trophy.

Also, in case you think that all we do is criticize, let’s throw some props to the producer who put together the Jared Verse package, including his plays when he was at Albany. It’s incredible that in this day of constant scouting, of team sites, of data, that it took an FSU assistant tuning into a Syracuse-Albany game to unearth a gem (wait, isn’t that tampering?) who morphed into the top playmaker on FSU’s defense.

Finally…

Things are hunky and dory right now at Clemson in terms of the quarterback situation, but if you witnessed Cade Klubnick’s inaugural college series, there may be a QB controversy in the offing. Remember, the Kelly Bryant/Trevor Lawrence problem reared its ugly head when the Tigers made an early non-conference visit to College Station. Clemson doesn’t have a game like that this season, really has no challenging road contest until it visits South Bend in November. But if the offense stalls under D.J. Uiagalelei, Klubnick’s gonna get his shot, and you have to wonder whether both will be there next season. Has D.J. really looked impressive enough to this point in his career to go pro? He either keeps the starting job all year and jumps to the NFL or he loses his spot and transfers, is our prediction.

Finally, finally…

The Bad Beat on the Hawaii over was one for the time capsule. As SVP and Stanford Steve pointed out, you really did not have to put money on the day’s last game and stay up until 4 a.m. just to watch the Rainbow Warriors (we know; we don’t care) fail on four rushing attempts from inside the 3 and thus fail to get the over (and if they’d even just kicked a field goal… they trailed by, like, 25 points, who cares how they scored?). Just a brutal defeat if you took the 67.5 over on a game that ended with 66 points.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

MH staff reacts to learning the playoff will be expanded to 12 schools

It Goes To Twelve

Move over, Nigel “It Goes To 11” Tufnel. There’s a new extreme in town. The college football presents (i.e. the NCAA for college football, because there’s still not technically a Division I FBS NCAA championship) just announced that the college football postseason will be trebled (maybe our hed should’ve been “Treble Makers?”, but that’s too much Pitch Perfect for one week)in terms of schools (or, as Joel Klatt would say, “brands”), from four to 12.

They say that this will definitely begin in 2026, but could happen earlier. The bet here? 2024.

So, yes, we’ve never been a fan of any change to college football away from the core ethos that made it so magical: the idea that on any given Saturday in any podunk college town the best team in the sport could see its championship run terminated. Some people hate that; we love it. College football used to only sometimes reward the best team, but it always rewarded the most consistent team.

With a four-team playoff, we saw utter stagnation. It was basically four schools—Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State—and then it was everyone else. Those four schools represent 14 of the 16 national championship game finalists since the four-team playoff began in 2014. If it was supposed to promote more diversity, it in fact did the opposite. Will expanding the playoff only promote even more hegemony? It would be difficult to build upon that 7/8ths number, or 87.5% for just four schools.

What it will do, however, is make “regular season” games less impactful. It will also make third-year players who are about to go in the first or second rounds of the NFL draft seriously wonder if they want to put their bodies through up to three more games, against only top-flight competition, before heading to the ‘bine.

Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences. Meanwhile, college football was never broke. It’s a shame they always seem to wanting to fix it.