Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Friday Fives: Suggested Bulldogs strategy - give Vols lead

A fistful of comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports.

Let’s see, airfare from Atlanta to San Francisco on the first week of February, 2016, right now looks to be anywhere between $320 and $580, depending upon your dates. Non-refundable. So, just how confident are you in the Falcons getting to Super Bowl 50?

The long-range only extends to Sunday

Can Falcons fans practice restraint? (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Forget that previous paragraph. Shred it. Such Super Bowl day-dreaming can do nothing but distract and deter. What this surprising Falcons season requires now is a microscope, not a telescope.

As the Falcons continue to refine their 1972 Miami Dolphins imitation, we will be tempted to look preposterously ahead. It already is being done by those going down the team’s schedule and, opponent by opponent, ticking off the probabilities: “Win; win; there’s a cupcake; win; what, they’re still in the league?; win; hot garbage. . .”

That is a fool’s exercise. No NFL team can claim sure-thing status – that is built into the DNA of the league. And certainly not a team whose grasp on success is as traditionally fragile as the Falcons.

Yes, fans need to take ‘em one at a time, too. Now I must go into writer’s rehab for using that cliché.

Fall behind at Tennessee and prosper

Vols coach, the excitable Butch Jones, tries to prod his team to the finish. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Here’s an unusual strategy the Bulldogs may want to consider Saturday in Knoxville:

Where on most road trips to places like Neyland Stadium, you hear how important it is for the visitor to get off to a quick start, take the crowd out of the game. Perhaps Georgia should consider doing exactly the opposite.

Just lay down for a half. Fall behind early by design. Commit whatever turnover necessary, punt from the red zone, work on your first-half arm tackling all week in practice – whatever is needed to stake the Volunteers to a double-digit lead.

Then you get Tennessee right where you want it. The Vols have blown two-touchdown leads in three of their last four games. According to STATS LLC, there have been only 17 games so far this season in which a FBS team lost after leading by at least 13 points. And here are the Vols with three of those.

It all began, remember, with getting up on Oklahoma 17-0, and carrying a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter, and then melting into a puddle of orange. That set a tone.

Want to really get all those people in that cavernous stadium on edge? Give them an early lead and let them nervously chew on that for a while. They’ll be too busy thinking up horror scenarios for how their team is going to blow this one to get all loud and intrusive.

Just trying to be constructive here, in this time of sweeping, corrosive negativism.

Wrath of the titan

Alabama's Nick Saban joyously salutes fans after beating Georgia. (Getty Images)

It was the perfect set-up for another Nick Saban sermon, two days after a regenerative blowout of Georgia and two weeks following a stinging loss to Ole Miss.

So there he stood Monday, the preacher at his pulpit, the one decorated with a strategically–placed bottle of Coca-Cola, ready to deliver one of his favorite messages. He once more was in position to damn the false prophets of the media.

Asked about the ever-shifting perceptions of his kingdom these last few weeks, Saban could have laughed it off. He could have shrugged; after all he owns three of the last six national titles and is as immune from criticism as anyone in his industry can be. You know, maybe have some fun with the absurdity of it all.

But the words light-hearted and Saban never have occupied the same sentence – until this sentence.

“I say the same thing as when y’all buried us last week and all that. It really doesn’t matter what you think, and it really doesn’t matter you say, and I’m hopin’ that nobody on our team is playin’ for you,” he began.

Of course, he’s right. The bulk of the chatter throughout the sports media – every platform from old-fashioned newsprint to the phone screen – is cotton candy.

You should be bemusedly suspicious of everything put out there. Like certain angry denials from a certain coach that he had no intention of leaving the Miami Dolphins for the University of Alabama.

Saban Monday was quick to separate the nattering media from the good people who don’t blog post, as if those voices were entirely separate.

“I said before I believe in our team. I do believe in our team. And we’re going to work hard to make our team better, and I hope our players respond the right way – it’s not going to be for you. The fans, yes.”

Oh, the ‘Bama fans are the reasonable ones? Maybe Saban does have a sense of humor.

The fantasy of easy money

If you took this guy, Falcons Devonta Freeman, you may have had high fantasy football hopes. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

If it looks sketchy and smells sketchy, it has to be either an email from my new best friends in Nigeria or online fantasy football.

Know those commercials featuring various unemployed Millennials celebrating their new-found wealth based on someone else’s accomplishments? Well, now, the folks at FanDuel/DraftKings are trying to explain how one of their employees just won $350 K.

Looks kind of bad when someone on the inside, someone theoretically capable of feeding off the information of drafting trends to build his own team accordingly, hits the mother lode. Sort of like lottery host John Crow just happening to hit the right six numbers.

There was no wrongdoing, the daily fantasy company asserted. And now the long trip back to building trust and credibility with its customers begins – perhaps stretching all the way to Sunday’s pre-game shows.

Some have cried for the need of more – or just some – regulation. (Translated: We got to find a way to slap more taxes on this stuff).

Whatever the eventual outcome, the news certainly sent tremors throughout parents’ basements everywhere.

Bonfire of the banalities

More proof that highly-paid professional athletes are just the same as poor trailer folk, only with more tattoos:

It has been a good week for the New York Post. First came its headline on Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia leaving to team to go for alcohol rehab: CC on the Rocks. And then it reported on the alleged fight between Knick coach Derek Fisher and now Memphis Grizzly Matt Barnes.

Apparently Fisher has been squiring Barnes’ ex, a “Basketball Wives LA” “star” Gloria Govan.

Here’s a bit of advice, kids: In the unlikely case you can find someone who doesn’t have his or her own reality show, hold onto that person like gold. Otherwise, your life is certain to get stupid.

Barnes reportedly drove nearly 100 miles from his team’s California training site to Govan’s home when he learned Fisher and some friends were there enjoying a bonfire. Fortunately, the confrontation produced only few small bruises. Hardly worth the greenhouse gasses. No report on whether any marshmallows were harmed during the fracas.

The Knicks had no comment, but were no doubt pleased that this actually was one of the more normal news stories arising from their locker room.



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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.