Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hippodrome: James Franklin Battles Paper Tiger

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM

This week in The 'Drome: The Battle of Franklin, Trotzy gets crankin', the TSSAA needs a spankin' and a funny picture of a buffalo.


What was it he said about ink by the barrel?
  • What was it he said about 'ink by the barrel'?

Opening Face-Off

James Franklin vs. The Tennessean: On Monday, Murfreesboro's Daily News Journal ran a story about Blackman running back I'Tavius Mathers recommitting to Ole Miss. Mathers, a two-time Mr. Football, had wishy-washed on his decision after the Rebels fired Coach Houston Nutt, but Mathers was calmed by a new coaching staff.

The next day, the DNJ's big brother Tennessean re-purposed that story, taking a different slant, emphasizing Mathers' father's assertion that Vanderbilt — one of numerous schools interested in the Blaze's blazer — was "untruthful" with his son regarding playing time.

This, as Clay Travis' Outkick The Coverage explains, ticked off James Franklin, who then went on the 3HL to take 1100 to task.

"If you read the articles the articles were changed as well. The content was changed," Franklin said on 3HL.

"The problem is not everybody reads the whole article," said Franklin. "They read the headline and that's the only thing they remember." He continued, "I have a problem with an article that's written out of context and I have a problem with a sensational headline to try to get hits on a webpage."

Despite calling the program and its coaches "untruthful" Vanderbilt received no telephone calls seeking comment, which also angered Franklin. "No, not whatsoever," Franklin said of the newspapers attempt to contact him. "Any story that's ever written I think you ought to talk to multiple people...There was nobody that called anybody from Vanderbilt."

In his short time on West End, Franklin has shown he won't back down from anybody — and frankly, that's made some people cringe, in part because Vandy has long been all too content to be the SEC's gridiron baby brother.

Now, Franklin — via the retail politics of talk radio and especially Twitter — is naming names in the media too. He won't make many friends in the sports pages that way, but it seems that he doesn't care all that much anyway. And in the brave new world of the 21st century, he no longer has to pal around with the beat men.

The Week Behind

Get it?
  • Get it?

Very Funny: The Predators managed six points in three games last week, outscoring their three opponents 12-5.

Barry Trotz is known as a bit of a line-shuffler, and he gave the lines the croupier treatment again. It seems to have worked. The top two lines of Patric Hornqvist-David Legwand-Colin Wilson and Martin Erat-Mike Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn have gone on a mini-explosion, as Boclair noted ahead of Thursday's OT win against Colorado (Legwand had a pair last night and Kostitsyn had the other).

But perhaps the most interesting trio is the resurgent, contract-year Jordin Tootoo and high-energy, always-in-fifth-gear rookie Gabriel "Ooh La La" Bourque flanking Swiss Army Knife Nick Spaling. The Superstation Line (T-B-S, see where I'm going here?) is like watching three toddlers — all fueled up on Red Bull and hot peppers — playing an on-ice game of human pinball. The three seemingly have a unified interest in being jacked-up nightmares-on-skates: playing hard for 45 seconds at a time, flinging themselves around the ice with an abandon so reckless it can only be intentional.

Of course, Trotz will pull the lever on the randomizer in a few weeks and these triplets will get mixed. For now, enjoy the show.

Boulevard of Broken Streaks: It's rare for Belmont to lose at home. It's rare for a Rick Byrd team to blow a lead. The chances of both happening in the same game — and for Belmont to do it against archrival Lipscomb in Nashville's amped-up church league tilt — are in the royal flush range.

But indeed, after Lipscomb took a technical foul early in the second half, Belmont took a 12-point lead.

Then something happened.

As the clock clicked under nine minutes, Lipscomb freshman Deonte Alexander scored eight points in under five minutes, as Belmont went more than seven minutes without a point. Suddenly, inexplicably, a Belmont lead which seemed insurmountable had been reversed. Lipscomb iced the game hitting 11 straight free throws, winning 85-74.

Such a collapse from a disciplined, experienced, Rick Byrd-led Belmont team is almost unheard of. But in Nashville's best rivalry, rarely do things follow the script.

Garbage Time: Vanderbilt is looking more and more like the team they should be, opening SEC play 2-0. Of course, lots of teams look good against Auburn and South Carolina. ... Trevecca, as it transitions from NAIA to NCAA Division II, is spending a year in something called the National Christian College Athletic Association. Men's hoops is enjoying the change; they are ranked No. 1. ... Will the Titans draft an offensive lineman early? Looks that way, thank God. ... My thoughts on MBA. ... Congratulations to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter on their All-Star Game invites and to rookie Craig Smith who'll have a chance to redeem his empty-net boffo in the skills competition.

Halftime Entertainment

Please fix this.
  • Please fix this.

Finally This Antiquated Error Can Be Rectified: After centuries of being on the wrong side of acknowledged fact and accepted practice, a Nashville institution is holding a vote which may — may — correct an error so egregious, it's an embarrassment to our city.

Yes, Lipscomb is considering dropping the "s" off Bisons. Bisons, by the way, is not a word. Despite what Lipscomb says on its site, "Bison" isn't the "more commonly used" plural. It's the only acceptable plural.

'Dromers: please go over and vote so this civic embarrassment will end.

The Week Ahead

This is Kevin Stallings serious face. Also his face for everything else.
  • This is Kevin Stallings' serious face. Also his face for everything else.

Now It Gets Serious: Vanderbilt men's basketball benefited from whatever scheduling matrix the SEC uses, drawing two bottom feeders to open the conference slate. Neither Auburn nor Carolina proved much of a challenge — and rightly so — and Georgia should similarly be a walkover tomorrow at Memorial.

But next week, things ramp up for the 'Dores with a visit to Tuscaloosa. Alabama was a bit of a surprise last season in the SEC West — the SEC East of Basketball — and is even better this year. What's more is the student section at Coleman Coliseum is trollerific. It'll be Vandy's first real test of their recent post-Festus renaissance. Winning big games on the road is always the test of whether a good basketball team can be great — and the question of whether Vandy can ever be consistent away from the Magic has dogged the 'Dores for decades.
Worthless Prediction: Georgia's no problem, but the Tide will be tough. Vandy in a squeaker, especially if John Jenkins has one of those games where he hits eight three-pointers.

If You Can Make It There: The Predators recent run of form will get put to the test with four games in the next week, starting tomorrow at home against the Flyers, the start of three games against the Eastern Conference. Philly sits fourth in the East and features early MVP candidate Claude Giroux. Also, a philosophizing goalie who knows a win on the road would be HUMONGOUS BIG.

Then, the Preds head north for a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back against the New York teams. The Monday game is a midday start against the Islanders because, obviously, nothing says Martin Luther King Day like a noon hockey game on Long Island. Tuesday is under the glittering lights at Madison Square Garden for a national broadcast facing off with the beast-in-the-East Rangers.

Thankfully, all this hullabaloo ends with a Thursday game against the consistently horrid Blue Jackets.
Worthless Prediction: This is a tough stretch for the Preds, make no mistake, and expect Anders Lindback to put down his cotton candy and start at least one of those Eastern Conference games. Four points in four would be nice, five in four would be a triumph.


Overtime

When this is all over we should get an apartment together
  • When this is all over we should get an apartment together

The Old College Try: When injuries and scratches were announced at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night, many Predators fans were disappointed.

No, not just because Jerred Smithson missed another game for the home team with a lower-body injury, which surely he sustained during his usual workout of leg-wrestling a mountain lion. No, disappointment came because the Avalanche were without defenseman Shane O'Brien. And disappointment could come again tomorrow if the Flyers' Kimmo Timonen is unavailable.

Why the glum faces at non-appearances by opposing players? Because O'Brien and Timonen used to be Predators, of course.

And Nashvillians love guys that used to play here.

Predators fans talk fondly of the days when Kimmo and Scott Hartnell (also a Flyer, coincidentally) wore the saber-tooth crest. They miss Scottie Upshall and Tomas Vokoun and Rich Peverley and Mark Santorelli and Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky and Ryan Jones. No one seems to care about Dan Hamhuis, for some reason.

Some of that is natural. It's easy to get attached to a guy and wonder how he's doing elsewhere (yes, I check Florida Panthers box scores) when he leaves town. It happens in every city in one way or another. Witness Teemu Selanne's return to Winnipeg.

But Selanne is a superstar, one of the best players of his generation. O'Brien's a fine player, the media loved him and he's exactly the kind of defenseman the Preds could use right now, but he's not the sort of transcendent figure Selanne is. Really, none of the aforementioned could legitimately be called "stars" with the possible exception of Vokoun and, perhaps after his screen time on 24/7, Hartnell.

So why this phenomenon in Nashville?

Because, by and large, Nashville sports fandom, even after 13 years of pro sports, is still colored by college sports. College sports fans expect a player to be on the team for no more than four years and then it's time to follow his career elsewhere. Turnover, naturally, is high, and fandom is more about the front of the jersey than the back. You love a guy in college and then you love him where ever he goes next (c.f.: Manning, Peyton).

We are conditioned to this constant transition, and frankly, the perpetually low-budget Predators did little to buck that conditioning for years (the long-term deals to Martin Erat, David Legwand, and now Pekka Rinne are signs the franchise is perhaps more willing to lock-up players) and the Great Fire Sale of 2007 was another electroshock keeping Predators fans accustomed to the rotating door.

Rinne's seven-year deal — and David Poile's repeated assertions he expects to get Shea Weber and Ryan Suter inked — is a sign the organization no longer wants to be everybody's college team. Maybe the fans can get the message too.

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