So while the direst warnings - you know, that betting lines would be delayed - haven’t come to fruition, campuses are still fighting the inexorable spread of the virus in their own way. For Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel, it’s adopting The Way of Howie Mandel, eschewing all hand-to-hand contact. Problem solved.
Normally, you don’t see a broadcast booth spend a plurality of a football game raving about the “time of possession” statistic. Then again, normally, you don’t see a team win said battle by a full 30 minutes of game time, which is precisely what Miami did to Indianapolis last night. And then again, you don’t normally see a team control the ball for fewer than 15 minutes of the game… and win anyway.
(”Okay, so you just scored the go-ahead touchdown. Allow me to retort: BOOOO THUMBS DOWN TO YOU BOOOOOOO!”)
But lo and behold, thanks to the quickest of quick-strike offenses, the Colts did exactly that; thanks to touchdown drives of 1, 6, and 4 plays, Indianapolis prevailed in Miami, 27-23. Indeed, the Colts’ longest drive of the night was a 9-play drive that led to a 2nd quarter field goal; on the other side of the field, the Fins had exactly one shorter drive: an 8-play, 25-yard drive that ended in a punt. After that, literally every drive of theirs was 9 plays or longer. That’s the longest shortest drive since [ERROR WE ARE NOT ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU CLIENTS ABORT, RETRY, FAIL?].
Ah, but without turnovers, time of possession is effectively meaningless. Read more…
The biggest story by far leading up to this past weekend’s college football games was the impending beatdown of Tennessee by Florida. It was the game that was going to expose Lane Kiffin as a spoiled, inept brat and cement Tim Tebow’s second Heisman. Urban Meyer, master coach and motivator, would have his Gators so fired up to crush Tennessee that the only concern for the Gators was whether they could fit triple digits on the scoreboard.
Only, um, that never happened. Florida gritted out a rather sloppy 23-13 victory over the Vols that failed to live up to the media’s hype. Kiffin himself was the orchestrator of much of the hype, and quite a few postgame stories fed into that, undeservedly praising him for reigning in the defending national champs and the Football Messiah. Undeservedly? Yeah, turns out that the biggest opponent the Gators might have faced last week wasn’t Kiffykins, but the ever-looming Swine Flu.
First it came for the Mexicans, but I said nothing, for I am not a Mexican. Then it came for the children, and I didn’t speak up, for kids are really annoying anyways. Then it came for the college kids, but I didn’t speak up, for I am an adult. When it comes for me, who will be left to speak out for me?
(If you experience similar symptoms, you may have the swine’s flu.)
Hopefully we won’t get to that point, because I can remain silent no more. TEH SWINE FLUS (!!!!!!11) pandemic is now attacking college football, and some things you just don’t mess with, not even if you’re a lifeless microscopic clump of RNA. Not cool, swine flu.
Yesterday, AdamJ mentioned that Vegas is bracing for the effect swine flu could have on college football betting lines this year, with casinos planning to hold out on releasing lines for as long as possible to make sure teams aren’t affected. Adam also rightly points out that a swine flu outbreak in and of itself isn’t any different than a bout with food poisoning or any other bug that might be going around on a team. But those types of ailments are usually few and far between. The difference with the swine flu is that it’s not really a matter of “if” it’s going to happen to your team, but “when.” And that should be unsettling to any fan whose team is a national title contender this year.
(Anyone picking Arkansas in the SEC West this year?)
In an odd way, you might say that these two teams are among those with an advantage over their competition this year. Teams that get it out of the way now aren’t going to have to deal with it later in the season, when the stakes are higher and tired, weary bodies may react more negatively to the virus itself. With the amount of, um, interpersonal contact involved in a college football game, it seems likely that H1N1 will make the rounds throughout the sport this year. And a poorly-timed outbreak could leave a team significantly weakened on a game day.
(Good luck getting girls to make out with you at parties this year, college dudes)
Plus, schools and the NCAA I assume will have to work together to come up with some sort of protocol for using players who are suspected or confirmed to have the virus. If they feel up to it, will they be allowed to play, knowing that they could spread it to their teammates and opponents?
Let’s put it this way: Troy travels to Gainesville to play Florida a week before the Gators host Tennessee. What if half of Troy’s team comes down with the virus (that isn’t so far-fetched: see Duke) in the days before that game. Do the Gators want anything to do with that team, knowing that they have Lane Kiffin coming to town the following week? Would non-infected teams have grounds for refusing to play an infected team? (I understand that’s unlikely, but it’s at least a thought, right?)
(It’s all fun and games now, Tebow, until those Crocs and that baby give you debilitating diarrhea)
I’m not trying to overstate the effects of H1N1. I understand that in most healthy people, like college athletes, the symptoms are relatively mild. But if 50 or more guys on a football team are going through it at roughly the same time, there will certainly be a difference in how they play on game day. In college football, one bad week can ruin a national title run. You figure that some highly-ranked team is going to get unlucky enough to have this get to them at precisely the wrong time.
Man, has it been a good couple of weeks to be covering college sports in Kentucky. Even the guy who doesn’t even coach there anymore is getting in on the act. Of course, I’m talking about Billy Gillispie’s DUI, which we did mention yesterday.
The officers asked Gillispie for his proof of insurance, and he said it was in his golf bag in the trunk.
Well, sure. I mean, who doesn’t keep their car insurance card in their golf bag?
“During the exit, he used the door for balance and was confused on how to open the trunk”
He’s driving a Mercedes, so there’s like a 100% chance that opening the trunk involves pushing the button on the car key that looks like a trunk.
“I asked Billy if he had had anything to drink tonight. He stated no he had been golfing all day.”
He was arrested at 2:47 a.m. Now, unless he has some of those special golf balls that light up, he had most certainly been done golfing for, oh, somewhere in the neighborhood of seven hours. Not only is that enough time to get hammered, but he could’ve slept with some random lady at a restaurant and paid for her abortion and still had an hour left over.
The report said Gillispie, who was driving, had red eyes, slurred speech and a “strong fruity smell coming from his person (possibly wine).”
What, Billy couldn’t have been slamming appletinis?
(”I’m more of a Midori sour guy”)
• Michael Vick made his preseason debut last night. Here’s a story about it. If you want to know anything more about it, just tune into the 24/7 coverage on ESPN today. Hey, at least they stopped talking about Favre for a day.
• Speaking of Brett Favre, instead of the inevitable “retirement” press conference that’s coming at the end of the season, ESPN should just air this clip of Pat Cashman from the late, great sketch comedy show “Almost Live”:
If there were questions about Semenya’s gender, they should have been asked and answered before she raced. If she was female enough to enter the race, she should be female enough to win it. She didn’t get any less feminine in the 1:55.45 it took her to win. Her gender never would have been questioned had she finished seventh, because she wasn’t too ugly to enter the race. She was just too ugly to win it.
• Former NHL coach Jacques Demers, who was illiterate for most of his adult life, has been appointed to the Canadian Senate. He’ll be traveling the country hosting town hall meetings about tuque reform.
Okay, the swine’s flu is getting a little out of hand. No, not for reasons involving actual health problems; H1N1 is still a relatively tame strain of influenza. But since it’s new, infectious, and having fun running through our immune systems before they know how the hell to handle it, it’s going to end up affecting plenty of aspects of society as the winter seeps in.
(A colony of fans already affected by the virus.)
Fortunately, though, there’s no instances where college football players might, say, congregate in the same room for hours at a time, providing a prime opportunity for the virus to spread. And they certainly don’t come into direct, repeated physical contact with each other without any sanitary options nearby nearly every day.
Sure, there will be Rachel Nichols following his every move at practice for a while, then everyone will get all excited when he breaks off a 14-yard run from the Wildcat formation in a preseason game. But then he’ll fade away for a while as he serves his suspension, and by the time he is eligible to play in week six or so, he’s just going to a backup who comes on for a gimmick play every once in a while.
Philly was one of a long list of teams that reportedly had no interest in Vick as he was seeking a new job. In fact, many theorized that he’d have to resort to signing with the new UFL to have a chance to play. After all, what NFL team was going to be willing to absorb the PR hit, be willing to wait out his suspension, and be able to actually use him? The Eagles seemed unlikely on all fronts. They’ve already got two decent backup quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley.
(You know things don’t look good for this league when they’re disappointed that they didn’t get the dog killer.)
So why add Vick to a team that doesn’t really need him? Andy Reid talks about wanting to give the guy a second chance, and even mentions the plight of his own children as a factor in the decision. The Eagles did use DeSean Jackson in the Wildcat on occasion last year, so maybe they want to expand that facet of their offense. Maybe they’ll try to turn him into a receiver, kick returner, or both. But can he learn to do those things at an NFL level in a matter of weeks?
None of that seems important right now, as most of the attention will be focused on the moral implications of signing a guy who just got out of prison two weeks ago for killing dogs. The PHILLY INQUIRER’s John Gonzalezsums up the struggle, and gives a very reasonable argument in favor of giving Vick another chance:
If you’ve already dug in and joined the anti-Vick camp, I won’t blame you or try to change your mind. People love dogs. I’m one of them. I’m a sucker for just about any animal, but the ones that roll over and play fetch and slobber all over me - even when I’m not at my best (which is most of the time) - are by far my favorite. What Vick did to those dogs was cruel and terrible and indefensible.
But I’m not going to kill the Eagles for signing him, and I’m not going to attack Vick or ascribe some pejorative label to the guy. I don’t know the man. I don’t know why he got involved with dogfighting. But I do know that he went to prison, and he lost his job, and he’s been beaten up quite a bit over the last two years. He’s been beaten up almost endlessly. And for good reason. Don’t get it twisted, he deserved his punishment - all of it. But after doing his time and losing almost everything he’d worked so hard to achieve, hasn’t he paid the price required of someone looking to purchase a second chance?
Ultimately, I think NFL fans will be OK with Vick. Everything he’s said and done recently indicates that he’s remorseful about what he did and that he’s committed to rebuilding his image. But for now, even the fans in Philly are split on this – a poll on PHILLY.COM shows that they are about 53-47 against signing Vick.
Ironically, Landon didn’t pick up the illness in Mexico, where the latest epidemic of the ol’ H1N1 originated. Instead, he got it from two staff members of the L.A. Galaxy, Donovan’s MLS team. The L.A. TIMES reports that the staff members picked it up during the Galaxy’s match with the New England Revolution in Foxboro. That’s right, Pats fans. Swine flu is just stewing in your stadium. Good luck with that, Brady.
(”So, if there’s swine flu on Bernard Pollard’s helmet…”)
Donovan admits that he felt crappy during Wednesday’s game, but chalked it up to the elevation and poor air quality in Mexico City. He is unlikely to play in the Galaxy’s home game tomorrow against Seattle, and more unlikely to ever come within 25 feet of David Beckham the rest of this season (which isn’t much of a change — he just has a medical reason now).
I suppose it’s shouldn’t be surprising if we hear of athletes starting to come down with the virus. MLB pitcher Vicente Padilla came down with it a couple of weeks ago, and as many as 1 million people nationwide have probably been infected at some point. While there is little danger of any serious repercussions (Donovan is sick, but nothing beyond your average flu bug), it could be devastating to a team if multiple players were to suffer from the illness at the same time. NFL teams in particular need to be careful, or at least plan on catching it the week they play the Lions.
• Quentin Richardson has been traded — for the fourth time this offseason. The T-Wolves sent him to Miami yesterday for Mark Blount. That means he has now been swapped for Darko Milicic, Zach Randolph, Sebastian Telfair, Mark Madsen, and now Blount. That’s a lot of headcases and one terrible dancer.
• The DAILY MAIL has a story today about Kirsty Gallacher, girlfriend of rugby player Paul Sampson, daughter of golfer Bernard Gallacher, and former Sky Sports personality. Just wanted to establish a sports-related reason to run this photo:
Vicente Padilla exists in a small sliver of the pitching population of baseball: the sustained mediocre. He’s never good enough to, well, be considered good. He’s never bad enough to be moved to the bullpen or demoted. He’s just there.
(He fights like he pitches: Poorly and with that stupid look on his face.)
Well, he was there, anyway. Texas, apparently tired of paying $12 million a year for a steaming plate of below average, designated the pitcher for assignment today. And they seem to be really, really happy about it.
A few months ago, the swine flu epidemic turned the international sports scene into absolute chaos. Soccer teams in Mexico were forced to play in empty stadiums, and high school games and tournaments across the US were threatened. It was a total mess, but fortunately American professional sports were spared any damage.
But that’s all changed, as the DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports that Texas Rangers pitcher Vicente Padillahas been diagnosed with the swine flu after missing a start earlier this week with the always mysterious “flu-like symptoms.” Even more troubling, several of Padilla’s teammates are also laid up with bad flus, and while the team is waiting for test results to come back before they know anything for sure, it seems pretty clear that the Rangers might have a swine flu outbreak on their hands.