Pigskin is Icumen In

foot1Finally. Well, almost.

Opening kickoff is just a week away, but who’s counting, right?

Well, I am, which is why I went all medieval English with the title above, to give this anticipation the gravitas it deserves.

You can almost taste the artichoke chutney dip you were forced to try at last year’s opening tailgate, because it was the offering brought by your best dude’s then new GF. A vegan, she was. Not a problem this season, his latest gal pal is a pigskin-loving carnivore of the highest order, renowned for matching the guys rib for rib from a full rack at Dreamland one Saturday after the Tide rolled. Besides her granddaddy played for the Vols. For General Neyland himself, when their single wing was all that. Before “Rocky Top” was even penned by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.

Which fosters this query. Is the Butch Jones Era ready to kick it in gear in Knoxville? Will the Volunteers meet their lofty expectations, after a season when they proved a squad of 45 minute men playing a 60 minute game, can Tennessee find its way into the orange and white checkerboard endzone enough to be relevant?

So, yeah, the diehards of Pigskin Planet — my hand is raised — are way more than ready.

And a fascinating college football season it appears it shall be.

Sure the Usual Suspects sit atop the preseason polls, but questions abound. Will Nick Saban do it again, thereby cementing his status as the Best Ever, proving  you can prevail with an untested signal caller, and making houndstooth so passé in Tuscaloosa? Continue reading Pigskin is Icumen In

Cards on Collision Course with CFP

CardHelmetIt was bluster, as outrageous as it was inspiring.

An audacious proclamation. Especially from a coach, who once wondered why a bunch of skinny English rock & rollers were hanging in his charge’s bare bones Fairgrounds locker room.

As much as its utterance continues to induce bemused grins, it has become mantra among the faithful, a prophecy yet but inevitably to be consummated.

“We’re on a collision course with the national championship, the only variable is time.”

Thus there is an apprehension this pigskin preseason unlike any the Cardinal Nation has endured before.

With as many or more returning starters than any of the other national contendas, an upper echelon football mind on the sideline starting to get his groove fully back, a stadium as modern and plush if not as large as any across the land and a schedule that will give cause for the nation’s pundits to take notice, there is a quiet hope that many denizens of Papa J’s are almost scared to vocalize.

Seat belts are being fastened.

This. Could. Be. The. Year. Continue reading Cards on Collision Course with CFP

Seedy K’s Huzzahs & Harangues: 8/16

vanindex

Note: If you are viewing this article on a smartphone, the photo in the body of the post might appear upside down. Not sure why. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Media Misses Mark. Oh how we in the media can hype.Were your ready, I mean, really ready for Katie Ledecky’s triumphs? Usain Bolt’s post posturing after his sure to come W? Another gold for USA in Women’s Futbol.

Okay, we don’t always get it right, but even if we don’t, there’s always a Hope Solo to say something really, ingratiously stupid.

So, Ledecky, and that guy swimmer, you know whatisname Phelps, gave us what we wanted. In record time a lot of the time, thank you very much.

Bolt took care of biz too, prevailing in the 100 meters as he’s done twice before. Then dominated in the headlines as he’s wont to do.

Just one problem. Bolt’s scintillating come from behind W to secure yet again his title as “fastest man in the world” was not the best performance in track & field so far this year in Rio. It wasn’t the best that very evening. Not the best consummation of expectation. His three Golds over eight years in the same event notwithstanding, not the best storyline.

The morning after, all we saw in the headlines was Bolt this, and Bolt that.

You had to dig to read about the night’s real star. Continue reading Seedy K’s Huzzahs & Harangues: 8/16

Hump Day Sports Huzzahs & Harangues: Ledecky, Barkley, Messi, Phelps, Tubby & Much More

cupindexCupping. Who knew?

Tebow Weary. No American athlete, save for recent HOF inductee Bret Favre, has taken longer to accept that the end of the line as a top level athlete is nigh than Tim Tebow.

The former QB is, by all accounts, a man of abiding, legit faith. Which we know because the former Florida Gator Heisman winner wears it like a Thursday throwback jersey from his predecessor Steve Spurrier.

Here’s what defines Tebow’s character: Hubris. No need to look it up, I’ll define it for you.

Excessive pride or self confidence.

After his short run as a mediocre NFL QB had run its course, Tebow, who coulda kept playing in the League, had he been willing to switch positions, said No.

To which, all the teams in the league replied, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Now Tebow’s people have announced Mr. Timmy is gearing up for a major league baseball career. Even though the last time he played the game was in high school. In 2005. Continue reading Hump Day Sports Huzzahs & Harangues: Ledecky, Barkley, Messi, Phelps, Tubby & Much More

Monday’s Card Quips: A New Bobby P; An Old Face: Cardinal Futbol & More

petrinoStanding in the taco line next to U of L’s then new, recently anointed head coach at  2003’s Football Media Day, I attempted to engage Bobby Petrino, mentioning some imbroglio or another taking place at Auburn, where he’d been OC the season before.

Uneasy, fashioning a crinkly, forced smile, obviously wishing to be left alone, he mumbled, “Yeah, I saw that,” or something to that effect. Which, if subtitled, would translate into “I’d really like to grab a little lunch here without engagement, and head back to my office and watch film by myself.”

Fast forward to this Saturday past, at this season’s beginning of practice meet and greet with scribes and talking heads. Petrino is a different person. After his Belknap Campus abdication for a self-shortcircuited stint in Atlanta with the Falcons, his successful on-field performance and peccadillo engendered meltdown at Arkansas, a season in exile, a season helming the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green, and a Tom Jurich rapprochement rehire at Louisville, Bobby P appears finally at comfort with himself.

Walking to the mic, he waved at a photographer, joked with good nature how quiet the room was, and hurled a gentle barb at one of the assembled writers.

With a welcome smile, he opened by saying  how much “fun it is to be in camp.”

He joked about defensive ace Devonte Fields, who was way out of shape this time a year ago, “We were waiting to see if he was going to throw up again or not.”

When asked how much freedom QB Lamar Jackson would have this season, Petrino smiled a totally different grin than the one a baker’s dozen years ago, this one warmer, confident, with a wink.

“He has the freedom to do exactly what we tell him.” Continue reading Monday’s Card Quips: A New Bobby P; An Old Face: Cardinal Futbol & More

Cuttin’ the Nets at Crawford

joaniecardIt didn’t take but a step or two into Crawford Gym for it to become a Marty McFly journey back to the genesis of Cardinal basketball glory.

But it wasn’t immediately the sight of ever gracious Denny Crum or LaBradford Smith or Beau Zach Smith or Fred Holden or any of the many of the other Cardinals from yesteryear; nor that peculiar pungency that lingers in such gymnasiums, the decades-old aroma, a combination of competition-induced sweat and leather and rubber streaks on well worn hardwood. Though all of them and all that and more were present.

It was the heat, that sweltering humidity that induced beads of sweat instantly at Thursday morning’s ceremony honoring the long time U of L practice facility soon to be torn down in the name of progress.  As a similarly heightened Fahrenheit so induced perspiration in extremis back in the day to hoopsters and hoopaholics alike. Continue reading Cuttin’ the Nets at Crawford

Friday Card Quips: Bobby P, E2 Y3 & Istanbul Russ

petrinoBobby P, Era II, Year 3. There were moments of offensive firepower so explosive during Card Coach Bobby Petrino’s first two ventures in town, initially as offensive coordinator for a season, then as head mentor from ’03-’06, that the Red & Black Faithful were oft taken to exclaim, “He’s the next great college coaching genius.”

We were not alone in our assessment.

Not the least of his achievements was beating the Cats in his first game, when wearing the leader’s head set. And each season after that.

More monumental — after all, beating UK on the gridiron is no big deal — was an offense that trampled the tundra, seemingly at will. Wide open receivers, a deceptively effective running game. The Cards hung 50, 60, 70 on its mostly mid major schedule, at their pleasure. There were also big Ws over big time schools, skunking the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, eviscerating the Beavers from PAC-12 Oregon State. And that victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

In ’06, Louisville was a W that wasn’t to come in New Brunswick, NJ away from a spot in the national title game.

Then . . . I’ll save you a reiteration of the details . . . he was gone.

Soon enough, he was back. Continue reading Friday Card Quips: Bobby P, E2 Y3 & Istanbul Russ

Sports = $$$: Best and Worst Deals Ever

joeyToday’s Query: What would possibly make a man of my advanced age, with no hops, bad hips (regularly scheduled physical therapy), a shooting touch that has made coaches wince, teammates cringe and foes ebullient through the years, what could make that guy daydream about pulling his long unused b-ball off the shelf in storage, pumping it up, putting on my Wes Unseld Cardinal throwback, overworn low cut black chucks and going out to take a few jumpers? Just to see if he still has his stuff, don’t you know?

Well, for one, a guy named Lavoy Allen — Heard of him? Know who he plays for? Didn’t think so. — is going to make $3.5 mill next season. Joe Ingles — haven’t a clue — will take home $2.1 with five more zeros attached. Matthew Dellavedova will deposit in his account just short of $10 mill next season, which works out to at least a couple of hundred thou for each dirty play.

I trust you get my point. There are lots of professional basketball players, who are making obscene amounts of money, simply to sit on the bench and ogle the babes in the Jack Nicholson seats.

And this: The latest reported figures indicate big time college sports is breaking the bank. SEC schools each take home $30+++ million from the league. ACC schools have passed the $25+ million mark, with more on the way with the new TV contract.

It all seems so obscene. And, perhaps, is. But as long as guys want to gather at BW3, eat faux “wings,” quaff some Buds and watch games, the trend shall not abate.

It’s Money Ball über alles.

Which got me to thinking. A scary proposition, but one I engage in every once in awhile, whether I need to or not. Given what’s happened with money aspects of big time sports, what have been the best and worst financial deals ever in the history of sports?

Worst first. Continue reading Sports = $$$: Best and Worst Deals Ever

Sports Shots 7/08: Hoops? Of course it’s Mostly Hoops

b-ballYeah, I’m back. Miss me?

You think I’m really going to try and talk European soccer with you, France vs. Portugal for the title, or Tour de France,  or Wimbledon?

Of course not. Though I’ll reiterate, NBC bike race announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen remain my favorite announcing duo in any sport.

What you care about is who’s hot at the Peach Jam? You know, basketball recruiting. Well, I’m not going to talk about that either.

Golden State with Kevin Durant. Of course, the buzz is, how many titles are the Dubs going to win with their New Death Lineup?

And all I’m thinking is, how come you guys never listen? Have you not learned yet that the best conglomeration of players does not necessarily the best team make.

Let me remind you once again, as if I haven’t already ad nauseum every time talk of a super team comes up.

Lesson #1. Los Angeles Lakers, three seasons from 1968-71.

Three players on that team were among the very best in the NBA at the time. In fact, those three players remain among the Top Ten guys who balled in the 20th C.

Wilt Chamberlain.

Jerry West.

Elgin Baylor.

They never won a title. Continue reading Sports Shots 7/08: Hoops? Of course it’s Mostly Hoops

Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Live by the 3, Die by the 3

b-ballWith 4:39 to play last night, Klay Thompson answered a LeBron James trey with a driving layup.

It knotted the game at 89.

It knotted the points for the Series at 699-699.

As the Louisville Cardinal radio announcer of my youth Ed Kallay would say, “That’s about as close as you can get it.”

At which juncture, the compelling Best of 7 that had gained in intensity, by the day, on the court and off, redlined the Stress Meter past 11.

James missed a 22 footer.

Steph Curry missed a trey.

LeBron misfired on a deuce.

Thompson couldn’t net a two from 15 feet.

Andre Igoudala blocked a James shot at the rim. Then couldn’t find the hole from beyond the arc.

With each possession, the tension became more smothering, sucking the breath out of those who paid $50 large for their courtside seats, those in the bleachers, those in the Square in Cleveland, and folks gathered to watch together on big screens everywhere.

The shut down D continued. So too, the resulting offensive woes. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Live by the 3, Die by the 3