Say What?

Smith: Was Rice ‘provoked’ to punch fiancée?

When he suspended the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice for just two games for punching fiancée Janay Palmer into unconsciousness, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell drew widespread media scorn.  But not so much from ESPN First Take’s Stephen A. Smith.  In a rambling, disorganized rant, Smith said Rice “probably deserves more than a two-game suspension.  . . . But we also have to . . . learn as much as we can about the elements of provocation.”

The subsequent show included a brief taped apology from Smith for being inarticulate.  Though not retracting his take on domestic violence, he called it “the most egregious mistake of my career.”

Between the Lines:  Ladies, don’t say ‘No’ to your man or nag him for drinking too much or ‘not listening’ enough.  You may get your lights punched out, whether or not you deserve it.


Johnny Again: Browns upset by coke rumors?

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is reportedly disturbed by a photo circulating in cyberspace showing Johnny Manziel holding a rolled-up $20 bill in a Las Vegas hotel bathroom.  Was he about to snort cocaine?  Manziel and coach Mike Pettine refused comment on the photo, but Haslam said of the quarterback’s high-life behavior in this off-season:  “We expected more from Johnny.  . . . The really great athletes make their news on the field, not off it.”    . . . Manziel admitted he’s “made rookie mistakes.” . . . Former NFL coach Herm Edwards, appearing on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, compared Manziel to Disney World’s scariest ride: “He’s the Tower of Terror.  But the Browns knew what they were getting.”


Jets’ Milliner:  ‘Best corner in the league?  Me’

Dee Milliner, 2013 first-round draft pick of the New York Jets, was asked who’s the best cornerback in the NFL.  “The best corner in the league?  Me.  I ain’t gonna say somebody else is better.”

Between the Lines: Last year Millener was burned like Gomorrah.  The NFL office asked him to submit dental X-rays in case his body has to be identified.  This is a misguided effort to rebuild his shattered confidence.  

So who’s misguiding it?  “I have no idea,” said Milliner’s head coach, Rex Ryan, with a wink and a smile.  “You get a few bullets shot at you when you take that approach. . . but you know what?  It’s who we are. . . . I’m a great coach.  Just ask me.”


Suggs:  Flacco ‘may have to cuss me out’

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wants more fire from quarterback Joe Flacco.  “He’s not the most vocal, but sometimes we may need that.  He may have to cuss somebody out.  He may have to cuss me out.  It’s good to hear your quarterback get after somebody.”


Baseball should outlaw The Big Shift?

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci proposes a ban on the drastic infield shifts now employed against pull hitters, especially left-handed ones. He would not allow “three infielders on one side of second base.”  The shifts are reducing batting averages for power hitters unable or unwilling to bunt or slap singles to the opposite field.

Between the Lines:  We wouldn’t want too many Tony Gwynns.

Question:  Why did it take today’s baseball managers so long to try The Shift?   

Ted Williams faced it in the 1950s: all four infielders right of second base, leaving the entire left side open.  Baseball’s greatest hitter had the ability to punch the ball into the gaping hole, but that would have deprived him of his considerable extra-base power.


Baylor has USA’s best stadium and D-line?

Coach Art Briles trumpeted a budding football dynasty:  “McLane Stadium is going to be as unique a stadium as there is . . . Those 44 to 46 million people who drive down I-35 every day, some 8-year-old girl or boy sitting in the back seat will look out the window and say, ‘Mama, look at that place, it’s beautiful.  Where is this?’  And she’s gonna say, ‘Baylor.’  So for the rest of their lives they’ll associate Baylor with excellence.”  Then he called his defensive line “as talented and dominant as possibly anybody in the United States of America.”  While Heisman-hyped Bryce Petty should score like a video game, there’s less faith in a defense that yielded 52 points to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl and returns four starters.

Briles’ unbounded optimism contrasted with Charlie Weis, who said his Kansas Jayhawks have “marginal talent at every position except running back.” 

Between the Lines:  His team is much better than it was a year ago, when Weis called it “a pile of crap.”


Longhorns-Aggies rivalry is a ‘branding issue’

Longhorns coach Charlie Strong seeks a return to the annual Texas-Texas A&M game that generated one of college football’s great rivalries:  “We need to play them.”  He contradicted his boss, UT Athletics Director Steve Patterson, who opposes a resumption of the rivalry “unless there is a compelling business or branding reason.”

Between the Lines:  The brand he wants on the Longhorns is a national championship.  An annual encounter with traditionally powerful Texas A&M does not help that quest.


Big 12 commish: Cheating pays, NCAA ‘broken’

Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 commissioner, said “cheating pays” because NCAA “enforcement is broken.  The infractions committee hasn’t had a hearing in almost a year.  . . . They’re in a battle with a BB gun in their hand.  They’re fighting howitzers.”  He also predicted:  “I think you’ll see men’s Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pike.”


Saban: Tide couldn’t rise for Consolation Bowl

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops bristled when Nick Saban said Alabama treated the Sugar Bowl like it was “a consolation game,” which the Sooners won 45-31.  “They didn’t look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us,” Stoops said.  He considers Saban’s comment a weak excuse for being outplayed and outrun.  “I’ve got a built-in excuse for the next time we don’t play for a national championship.” 

Between the Lines:  Stoops is serving notice he’s ready to challenge Saban for NCAA supremacy.  


Harden: ‘Dwight and I are cornerstones’ among role players

James Harden minimized the free-agency loss of Chandler Parsons“Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Houston Rockets.  The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team.”


Golf is ‘a dying sport’

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd declared golf “a dying sport . . . going downhill fast” because men have increased their work and family commitments. “They don’t have six hours to play a round of golf.”  The Wall Street Journal noted that “for the fifth year, participation in golf fell in 2014.”  Dick’s Sporting Goods laid off 400 golf pros as it reduced store space for golf.  The Journal quoted Matt Powell, SportsOneSource analyst:  “As a sport it doesn’t reflect the values millennials like: diversity, inclusion.  Golf tends to not be those things.”  Other reasons it’s losing ground: the Great Recession and the demise of Tiger Woods.  For the past eight years golf courses have been closing at a rate of 100 per year.

Click here for Bloomberg article: Golf market stuck in Bunker . . .


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