Kentucky Derby. Wow the fun. Especially if you had the 80-to-1 longest of long shots that is Rich Strike. How big of an upset was that? Consider this from ESPN gambling expert Chris Fallica: There have been 143 horses in Triple Crown history that started at 80-to-1 or worse odds, and before Saturday, only one had won the race. That was Donerail at 91-to-1 in the 1913 Derby.
Ronald Acuña Jr. The Braves lead-off hitter showed all of baseball why he has more skills and more ways to beat you than any player not wearing an Angels uniform. (Side question: How did it work out that the two best players in the game are in L.A. and are not Dodgers?) Acuña went 5-for-11 as the Braves took two of three from the Brewers with two homers, two steals, three runs, and three RBIs. He has a six-game hitting streak.
NBA stars and playoff drama. Philly gets Joel Embiid back, and win two at home to knot that series with Miami 2-2. Dallas goes home and Luka goes off as the Mavs knot their series with the Suns 2-2. Game 4s tonight include Boston looking to even its series with the Bucks in Milwaukee and Memphis doing the same at Golden State.
TFP. Man, Stetson Bennett was a great get considering the market and his message, Bennett feels like a perfect speaker for the Best of Preps banquet next month.
NBA voters. How can Nikola Jokic be the MVP again, as ESPN is reporting? Yes, I know it’s a regular-season award, but there are a slew of better candidate, regardless of your definition of the award. And they may need to refigure the voting at least in part because with Jokic, the Nuggets were a first-round dismissal. Without Embiid, the 76ers were garbage, with him, they look like a Finals contender.
Golf. First the weather was terrible at the Wells Fargo, one of the better non -major events on the calendar. Second, the lack of star-power is a glaring issue for this game. And the popularity thing about social media is sure not going to fix it because here’s betting that Mickelson, Tiger and Bryson finish 1-2-3 in the Twitter Olympics this year and take home the lion’s share of the $40 million in popularity prizes, and their presence atop the buzz meter is not for golfing their ball these days. Max Homa is a fine player who should make the Presidents Cup team, but a Homa-Keegan Bradley bogey-fest on Sunday afternoon lost bigly in my TV viewing to NBA playoffs and just about everything else. (And when golf loses me and viewers like me who love the game to the NBA, that’s a problem.)
Golf, part II. A slew of familiar names from the European Tour are reportedly heading to the LIV Tour with Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson. It’s a number bigger than almost any insider expected — maybe around 40 familiar names — and it reportedly includes former world No. 1 Martin Kymer. And while the sport’s power brokers will say most of these guys are late-30s and older, that’s a deflection. Because a lot of those names I’ve heard — Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oousthuizen, Adam Scott — may not have the same game as a lot of the top-15 young guns on the PGA Tour but they have more star power than a lot of the guys in that 15-50 range. And for guys in the twilight of their career, who could really blame them for playing in events with smaller fields, less competition, bigger payouts and guaranteed money?
Canelo Alvarez. With the chance to etch his name among the best to ever do it, Alvarez suffered an unexpected loss over the weekend.
Mavs fans. Gang, keep your hands and heckling off the female family members of the opposing team. This is not that hard.
College football thoughts
There’s yet another reminder of the ‘woe is us’ crud of the folks who bemoan the state of college football.
Yes, college football needs some changes. And yes, Mark Emmert leaving is the best start any of us could imagine.
But the media rights are only growing. The Big Ten is negotiating now. The other leagues will be up soon, and the pot for the big boys is only growing.
The game of college football has never been more advanced or entertaining. And for all the ‘good of the game,’ ‘it’s amateur athletics’ belly-aches out there, gang, there are a slew of Division II and III teams you can either root for or go coach, Dabo.
And for all the coaches bemoaning college football ‘free agency’ check their career resumés and see how many times they picked up and relocated for the benefit of their family and their situation. (Side question: And if you are worried about fairness, why should college football be the first and only sport that has ever worried about fairness?)
Now is the perfect time to get some smart folks in a room — looking at you Jay Bilas, looking at you Nick Saban, looking at you Dawn Staley, looking at you JJ Redick, looking at you Jim Foster, looking at you Lamont Paris, looking at you David Shaw, looking at you, well you get the idea — and fix college sports into a working model with the modern realizations that are now forever part of the game.
Embrace the portal with right-thinking regulations that apply to possible restrictions on number of transfers and destinations of transfers that include well-reasoned potential exceptions.
Embrace NIL — hey NIL is going to allow Stetson Bennett to come speak and share his story to the Best of Preps folks — and look for ways to maximize its benefits across all sports. Heck, crafted properly, NIL could provide some structure against the transfer portal if you think about the $8 million signing The Athletic reported about that everyone assumes is UT QB Niko Whosehiscleats since he loses a big part of his deal if he a) talks about his deal or b) transfers.
Do away with — if possible — or find ways to regulate the third-party fund-raisers that are serving as de facto slush funds, because while I am all for players getting paid and getting their share of a multi-billion-dollar operation, that has to be an unintended consequence.
Could it have been a foreseen consequence? That’s certainly possible, but again, that was when Emmert was playing ostrich with his head in the Indy sand.
Because the transformation of paying the players is a great thing. The ripple effect of giving agents and sneeze merchants 20-plus-% and in some instances a great deal more is a rotten thing.
And paying players makes the wink-wink, nod-nod days of the $100-plus-handshake legitimate. But the third-party operators make the threats of the old-school SMU booster bonanza very real too. So get on it. As the Big Ten negotiates media rights — and gang, this impacts my world as much as anyone because the next round of media rights would be smart to include a general fund in the millions to have first access, weekly segments, whatever you can think of to star players across the league — that will be in the 10-figure neighborhood (yes, billion with a ‘B’) find a way to make the rules fit the realm.
This and that
— Local golfers had a mix finish Sunday, but each made a fair chunk of change for hitting a white ball really well. Stephan Jaeger shot a 4-under 66 Sunday in the difficult weekend conditions to move to a tie for 6th. He made $303,750 for the effort. Luke List’s 74 Sunday dropped him to a tie for 31st, which was worth $55,013.
— Couple of gambling tidbits and trends. With last night’s win, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are looking for a Stanley Cup three-peat, are a staggering 16-0 coming off a playoff loss over the last three postseasons. CHA-ching. Also of note, NBA playoff favorites in the semifinals so far are 10-4, according to VegasInsider numbers.
— Good and bad for UK athletics as the Wildcats baseball team handed Tennessee its first series loss of the SEC season but Chris Rodriguez, the SEC top returning rusher was arrested for DUI and careless driving.
— Anyone else finish HBO’s “WinningTime” about the start of the Lakers dynasty? If so, what were your thoughts — you can email them to [email protected] — and we may discuss it mañana.
Weekend winners and losers? Go.
On a multiple choice Monday, who would you say would be the most important person to include on the committee to reshape the structure of college sports and why?
Again, use the email and support your reasons.
As for today, May 9, since this was the official day Woodrow Wilson proclaimed as Mother’s Day in 1914, let’s go a Rushmore of songs with Mom/Mother in the title. Go.
And for all you moms out there, hope you had a great weekend.