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August Brings Hope to a Nation

Aug 03, 2015 -- 10:34am

August has become a wonderful month for American sports fans, which is to say NFL fans given the overwhelming popularity of what is now clearly America’s pastime.

In August everybody’s team is in first place. “Wait ‘til next year” has arrived. Past mistakes are now viewed as growing pains, part of the process of becoming a winner.

Jaguars fans are typical. New parts such as tight end Julius Thomas and running back T.J. Yeldon have been added. Young players such as quarterback Blake Bortles and tackle Luke Joeckel have grown up. All those rookies are now seasoned pros.

This year’s team is going to block better, throw better, catch better. This year’s team is going to rush the quarterback better and create more turnovers.

Yes sir, the 2013 and 2014 seasons are history, just bumps on the road to greatness.

Don’t you wish August lasted forever?

·         The truth is NFL fans, like Major League Baseball fans, have good reason to be optimistic during preseason training camps. Teams regularly make big jumps, record-wise, from one season to the next.

The NFC South, for example, had a different champion for four straight seasons (2010-13), meaning, of course, every team in the division won a title during that span.

In fact, 28 of the 32 teams have been in the playoffs during the last 10 years. Only Cleveland, Oakland, Buffalo and St. Louis have been absence from the post season during that span. (For your information, 27 of the 30 MLB teams have made the playoffs during the last 10 years. The only teams shut out of the post season during that time are Toronto, Seattle and Miami.)

I provide you Jaguars fans this information as a way of saying, yes, your team could make that leap from bottom feeder to a playoff team. Stranger things have happened in the NFL. Parity does exist.

But, please, don’t bet the rent money on that happening. A lot of players have to play better than they’ve ever played and, of course, they have to avoid the injury bug. 

Tom Brady's Two Legacies

Jul 31, 2015 -- 9:25am

As far as I’m concerned Tom Brady now has two legacies, one old, the other new.

Nothing has changed in my mind about Brady as a quarterback. The New England Patriots’ star remains rated among the best all-time at his position. How much air pressure was in the footballs he threw doesn’t impact that.

I’m not smart enough to say who’s the greatest. I can stay in my lifetime I’d put Brady in the top 10 along with Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Farve and Peyton Manning.

(I hear you screaming: What about Aaron Rodgers? Drew Brees? Steve Young? Troy Aikman? Dan Fouts? Fran Tarkenton? Jim Kelly? Absolutely, they were all outstanding quarterbacks. And I’m sure I missed a few others. Warren Moon was no slouch. But not everybody can be in the top 10. Besides, it is MY top 10.)

Brady’s new legacy isn’t flattering. It’s sort of a sports’ Liars Hall of Fame and he joins a group that includes Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Marion Jones and a lot of coaches.

(Again, I realized I just scratched the surface. In my opinion Tiger Woods, Ben Johnson, Manti Te’o and Floyd Landis easily qualify. I could add a string of other baseball players such as Mark McGuire, Ryan Braun, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and several members of the Chicago Black Sox of 1919.)

And, of course, if Richard Nixon had been a jock he’d be included, too. 

Tiger Woods and Olympic Greed

Jul 29, 2015 -- 9:18am

Tiger woes and Olympic greed:

  • Tiger Woods is still an athlete we can’t resist watching. But now instead of waiting to be awed by one of his majestic shots, we anxiously await his next impersonation of Larry, Curly or Moe on the golf course.

Because he once soared higher than any golfer ever has, I think it’s accurate to say he’s done a 180 that’s unrivaled in sports history: From the PGA Tour’s greatest champion to its court jester.

The 2015 Tiger isn’t in a slump. The 2015 Tiger is simply a bad golfer by Tour standards.

He has little idea where his tee shots will land. He seems to be guessing on how far he hits his irons. He keeps us guessing on his short game. Will he chunk it or skull it? There’s not a 5-foot putt he can’t miss.

Its possible Tiger could find his old magic. He hasn’t hit 40 yet. But that grows more doubtful each time Tiger plays. He looks more confused than ever, the victim of his own obsession with trying to discover the perfect swing. He seemingly changes his swing as often as he used to win majors.

Tiger returns to the Tour this week, playing in a tournament he also serves as host of.

Absolutely I’ll be watching. I can always use a good laugh.

  • Kudos to the people of Boston for convincing their leaders to say no to be the host city for the 2024 Olympic Games. For decades hosting the Olympic Games has practically bankrupted the host cities but Olympic leaders have continued to make even greater demands of future prospects.

While Olympic administrative leaders aren’t in the same class as the crooks who run soccer worldwide, they’ve lined their pockets at the expense of taxpayers for years. When the Games end, the bosses skip town richer while the cities are left with a mountain of bills to pay.

Now that Boston has been smart enough to say no, the Olympic committee will turn its attention to Los Angeles to host the 2024 Games.

Will LA really consider being the host city? The state of California is already bankrupt even with one of the highest tax rates in the country. The last thing California and Los Angeles need is to waste more of the state taxpayers’ money or beg for more federal government assistance.

Surely you’d think LA would say no. But don’t bet on it.

Days of Hurricane Dominance Long Gone

Jul 28, 2015 -- 9:23am

It was 20 years ago when I wrote that by the year 2000 Miami’s football program would be comparable to Temple’s. I was wrong.

The Hurricanes won the national title in 2001.

My prophecy looks better now. While the current Canes are better than Temple, the Miami football program has become very average. The Canes are 22-17 over the last three seasons, and 16-16 in ACC play.

I don’t expect Miami ever to be elite again. Oh, I can see an occasional big season with there being so much high school talent in South Florida, but not year after year.

Miami’s problem is two-fold: Image and money.

Miami’s administration, academic staff and many alumni became embarrassed and fed up with Miami’s national image. It was seen by many people around the nation as a football factory with an “outlaw” image. Remember the army fatigues at the Fiesta Bowl?

The small private school toughened its recruiting standards, both academically and character-wise.

As for the money, Miami has never been willing to spend the money it takes to sustain an elite program, in part because the Canes draw so poorly at the gate. Howard Schnellenberger left the year after winning the national championship because the school, according to Schnellenberger, wouldn’t even consider building a 45,000-seat, on-campus stadium.

That and, of course, salary. Why do you think Miami has had seven head coaches in the last 36 seasons? The Canes simply haven’t been competitive with elite programs when it comes to paying their head coaches. Current coach Al Golden makes slightly more than $2 million, barely above the average salary for top-division coaches.

I don’t foresee the day when Miami is considered a patsy on the schedule, but the days of fearing the Hurricanes are long gone. 

Seminoles and Sports Movies

Jul 27, 2015 -- 12:37pm

A couple of things on my mind are:

  • News alert: 83 scholarship football players at Florida State avoid trouble with the law!

Not really an attention grabbing headline, is it?

But I think you get my point. I’m certainly not defending FSU’s program or the two players who’ve recently gotten into trouble with the law, but the reality is bad news grabs our attention and obscures good news. Good news often means no news.

That’s true in practically every facet of life, and that’s the way it should be. We should be expected to act right.

I don’t think FSU’s football program is any more out of control than the programs at every university that tries to compete at the highest level. They all talk about student-athletes, graduation rates and model citizens, but in recruiting they all place physical talent ahead of character and academics.

And as long as they do that there will be some occasional bad news.

  • I love the movies and I love sports. I usually sports movies.

What I don’t love are athletes in movies.

That proved true again this week when I saw the new movie “Trainwreck” that features LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire and pro wrestler John Cena, who has somehow been cast in other movies that I wisely ignored.

Stoudemire may have a future as a bit actor. LeBron and Cena need to stick with basketball and wrestling, respectively. LeBron was particularly bad. You could almost see him reading cue cards.

The movie is a crude comedy starring Amy Schumer. Maybe I’m showing my age but I thought comedies were supposed to make you laugh.

If I was a real movie critic I’d give “Trainwreck” a rating of only one box of popcorn. And an empty box at that.

South Carolina Fans Better Appreciate Spurrier

Jul 22, 2015 -- 4:02pm

Gamecocks fans need to show their football coach some love. While Steve Spurrier would deny it, the Head Ball Coach needs to be loved to do his best work.

From the outside looking in it’s hard to believe South Carolina fans are grumbling and wondering if Spurrier has stayed too long; if he has gotten too old.

Buts fans, regardless of the team, become spoiled quickly, and after three straight 11-win seasons Gamecocks fans are up in arms about last year’s 7-6 record and the forecast for this year’s team, which is gloomy.

Never mind that before Spurrier’s arrival in ’05 the Gamecocks’ football program was basically a punching bag. What Spurrier has done in Columbia rivals what he did at Duke and Florida.

South Carolinians need to keep in mind one of the reasons Spurrier unexpectedly resigned at Florida was he grew tired of Gator fans harping on the few losses and taking the many victories for granted.

Spurrier brushes off suck talk, just as he does when the subject of age comes up. At 70, he’ll become the oldest football coach in SEC history this fall.

But don’t think for a second he isn’t sensitive to criticism – any criticism. That seems odd, I admit, because few people in sports are as confident in their abilities as Spurrier. Some call him cocky and it is difficult to defend him against such an accusation.

Bottom line is Gamecocks fans need to chill -- accept last year and probably this season as a bump in the road – and let Spurrier work his magic.

He’s a “young” 70 physically and mentally. He has worked hard to stay in shape. Sure, he has a bit of an aching hip and he walks slightly hunched over, but otherwise he says he feels great.

And he loves a challenge. He conquered that challenge at Duke, winning an ACC title. He conquered that challenged at Florida. He conquered that challenge at South Carolina.

He’ll likely conquer that challenge again at South Carolina if Gamecocks fans show him the love he craves and has earned.

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