Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sportin' Life

Hindsight being what it is, I'm regretting missing out on last weekend's Tennesse-Montana State-Florida State parlay, the proceeds of which probably could finance a private Caribbean isle. I wish I could remember which stuffed shirt opined on ESPN last week that he expected no upsets on opening weekend so I could point a virtual finger and snicker in his direction. SEC teams win at home against the PAC-10, period.

Sportswriters are among the lowest of the low, down there with international arms dealers and Gary Glitter. But one of my favorite parts of the almost-upon-us NFL season is Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column. I think I've mentioned it here before, but I felt the need to plug it again this season, despite the latest column's casual backhand slap to my state's (Troy University) Trojans and his indubitably crack-induced assessment of the Falcons (6-10? Bah.). His day job at The Brookings Institute leads to some interesting cross-pollination, and he is both refreshingly lucid in his football analysis and charmingly fanboy is his appreciation for pretty cheerleaders.

I second his motion for more TV time for NFL cheerleaders. They're down there on the sidelines all dolled-up and jumping around so people will look at them, no? The least we can do is oblige. Of course, that would mean we'd have to pay them more, and we all know that the only women in the country allowed to profit from professional football are players' wives and Suzy Kolber.

In this week's column, Easterbrook complains, " big-college football ... can choose many opponents, and increasingly choose cupcakes with cherries on top." He points to West Virginia, and looking at their schedule it's hard to argue with him. But I'll offer a counterpoint -- some of those cupcakes may turn into real competitors down the road. UAB, a cupcake squad if there ever was one, fought Oklahoma to a standstill for three and a half quarters last weekend in front of the largest crowd in Oklahoma football history. They lost, because of some guy named Adrian Peterson who'll probably win some trophy called the Heisman, but they made a LOT of people go, "UAB? Huh?" And tiny Troy gets to go on the road for a three-game slog through Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Nebraska -- that's some serious seasoning for Troy's players, and some serious money for a small school. This cherry-picking process can make small programs more competitive and show the nation players that might otherwise get overlooked, like UAB QB Sam Hunt, who came into the game fighting for a starting role and left as the undisputed team leader. So while I have a problem with the big schools being able to schedule ringers, it seems inevitable that if this continues some of these ringers are going to get up off the canvas and start punching back.

Speaking of punching, another ESPN Page Two column caught my eye. Replete with references to Fight Club and hot pants, Mary Buckheit's column is all atwitter over the UFC. She gushes, "Our generation is embracing a new breed of bout .... It's not hype or press conferences or fluff that gives birth to thousands of UFC fans. It's the reality of the whole thing. It's the hard-hitting mix of punching and grappling. It's the blunt competition and simplicity of a one-on-one fight. It's the brutal honesty of a fist, and the frank candor of a knockout. It's something we can wrap our minds around. Finally."

I look forward to her coverage of muay thai. Manly!

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