Friday, February 10, 2012

The Hippodrome: Ruston Webster Is Our Hero

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 7:02 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Ruston Webster's velvet hammer, Vandy's regular inconsistency, Ric Flair: Philosopher-King, Super pipe dreams and more ...

Not fans of the shotgun formation
  • Not fans of the shotgun formation

Opening Face-Off

Ruston Webster vs. The Dreamers: New Titans general manager Ruston Webster's only been on the job for a few weeks, but he's already a 'Drome favorite.

During the Titans' annual season-ticket holders' conference call, Webster — like a velvet hammer — quashed any hope that the Peyton-Manning-Should-Be-A-Titan idea has any credence whatsoever:

“We’re excited about our quarterback situation,” Webster said. “I think Matt [Hasselbeck] brought us through a difficult time, especially once we lost Kenny Britt last year. I think everybody saw a glimpse of Jake Locker and … we’re real excited about his future.

“Obviously Peyton’s a great player but we feel like we’re in good hands.”

It's easy to imagine him patronizingly patting the fanboys' heads: "Oh, that is an interesting idea, Timmy, but I live in the Real Actual World, not a fantasy land where war doesn't exist and we get everything we want."

Keep stuffing your flowers into the business end of the rifle, kids. Dreaming is just fine, but reality is — you know — reality.

Of course, the Come Home Peyton folks are still spending money on billboards and print ads, proving that, despite the election year recriminations from the right, Americans are still free to spend their money however they want, even on patently stupid things.

The Week Behind

  • Woot

Let Me Hear Some Soulfinger: An overall stellar night for Tennessee State University Thursday.

Coach John Cooper had the Tigers heading back in the right direction all year and their win secured the school's first winning season in 16 years.

Oh? Yeah. That win was a 72-68 road victory against No. 9 Murray State, cream of the OVC and Division I's last undefeated team. The last time TSU beat a Top 10 team? Never (at least not at the Division I level: there were some truly brilliant Tigers teams in the late 50s and they absolutely deserve some recognition; track down ESPN's documentary Black Magic)

Cooper has led TSU to road wins at Murray and SEMO — the conference's toughest road trips — as well as South Carolina. Murray looked to have the inside track to the OVC's automatic bid — but TSU put them on notice. And guess where the tournament is? The friendly, anachronistic confines of Municipal Auditorium.

C-plus: Really, there was nothing wrong with the Predators last three games. The top line of Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat — who is finally having the whelming season the team needs from him — is jelling into a formidable unit A good win against divisional rival St. Louis, a shootout loss to Vancouver after a nice comeback, capped by a stinker on the road in Ottawa in a game charged up with all kinds of emotion.

In a vacuum, three points in three games isn't bad at all. But hockey isn't played in a vacuum; it's played on ice and in the Western Conference, a point per game pace will send a team sliding.

After a sparkling January, perhaps we should have expected a post-All Star cool-off, but everyone else took a week off, too (although none of them had played as well as the Preds had in the weeks before the dog-and-pony show). The Preds' schedule doesn't get easier.

Perhaps this is just a blip — but the battle for the top seeds in the West is too tight for the blips to stretch into slumps.

Try Some Fiber: Vandy just can't seem to get regular.

Seeking that marquee win on the road at Florida, they were bamboozled by the press. With veterans all over the lineup and, allegedly, a sterling backcourt, that just doesn't make sense. The Commodores' inability to effectively beat the pressure early led to their third loss in four games.

They returned to West End for LSU — a team Vanderbilt could beat simply through talent. The 'Dores took control early, but had their fans watching through their hands, as they never quite put LSU away, with the visitors cutting the lead to four inside 5 minutes. A wise tactical switch back to the zone put Vandy back in command and eventually VU won by 15.

Nevertheless, the two games were illustrative of the problems plaguing Vandy. The Commodores are like a boxer who wants to win every fight by decision even though they have a powerful enough punch to knock people out.

Garbage Time: A toast of the 'Drome's White Russian to Vandy senior bowler Brittni Hamilton, who threw the first 300 in Commodore history helping the team to their third tournament title of the season. ... 'Drome fave Rick "The Little General" Insell donned his bright blue blazer and continued his dominance of Western Kentucky, as MTSU's Lady Raiders won 67-64 Wednesday. ... Memphis will officially join the Big East, representing an East so Big it now includes San Diego and Boise. Tiger fans are upset at this post by SI 's Holly Anderson and not just because the post is neither funny, insightful, well-informed nor well-written. ... Vandy beat cross-state rival UT 93-79 in women's hoops. Has Pat Summitt lost control of the Lady Vols? I wouldn't say it to her face, Climer. ... Raymond Berry lives in Murfreesboro, apparently.

Halftime Entertainment

Dont be sad, Aquaman
  • Don't be sad, Aquaman

Justice League of America: The Pride of Pulaski (not that that's hard), Martin Methodist 5'10" senior guard James Justice is in the running to be invited to the college basketball slam dunk contest.

Check out this YouTube compilation (with Zapruder cinematography, which sort of adds to the legendariness of it all in a way) and then go here to vote Justice.

Cowboy Hat Trick: The easiest way to pick out a tourist on Lower Broad is, of course, the cowboy hat, be it the standard black or brown or the garish bedazzled pink. Charmed by the relatively-inexpensive tickets and their general availability — coupled of course with the draw of the Nashville Experience — Bridgestone Arena attracts its share of visiting fans and, for the same reason that makes Aunt Martha and Uncle Willis from Ft. Wayne don a Stetson the second they step foot in Davidson County, these out-of-town puckheads also feel compelled to wear a ten-gallon.

Predators fan Zack Bennett has started one of these Tumblr things documenting our cowboy-hat wearing, hockey-loving out-of-towners.

In The Mail: 'Drome reader Scott writes on last week's assertion that the goal song for Predators' forward Brandon Yip should be US3's fusion classic "Cantaloop."

"With all due respect to Jim Diamond, whose insight into the Predators is impeccable, there really is only one theme song for Brandon Yip," he writes, sending us to this golden oldie (lyrics here).

The Week Ahead

  • Meanies!

Meanies in Memorial: Kentucky's annual visit to Nashville for the men's basketball game against Vanderbilt is probably the one surefire big event on the Nashville sports calendar. Playoff appearances by the pro teams are huge, but hardly guaranteed. The Music City Bowl is often left with whichever teams are still on the vine. The SEC tournament is not yet an annual fixture.

But when the Big Blue comes to town — as they do every year — it's always a red-letter day.

The fact was no doubt recognized by the muckity-mucks at ESPN, as they tabbed Saturday's game as the location of their GameDay roadshow. Of course, when they circled it, they likely expected it to be a match-up of two Top 10 teams. The Commodores have failed to live up to their end of the bargain, of course, but Memorial will still play her magical part Saturday night.

Kentucky is the nation's top-ranked team, every bit the SEC menace their fans expect the 'Cats to be year-in and year-out. Vanderbilt still seeks the signature win and an upset of the old rival could be the spark they need to surge out the year.

Worthless Prediction: Unfortunately, Vanderbilt won't be able to pull this one off. Memorial is often a flummoxing foil for freshman-laden teams like Kentucky. But these aren't your normal freshmen. 'Cats by 12.

Ric Flair Week: The Nature Boy spoke the truth with frequency and never was his philosophy truer than when he proclaimed "To be the man, you've got to beat the man. Woo."

The Predators have their own King of the Mountain match this week. They'll head up to Boston to discuss personal liberty with Tim Thomas Saturday before coming home for a Valentine's Day divisional tilt against the suddenly-skidding Blackhawks.

For a team, like the Preds, which purports to be Stanley Cup contenders, the best proof is beating the last two Stanley Cup winners. The Preds will have their chance.

Worthless Prediction: The result Saturday could depend largely on which goalies start. Coaches tend to rest their front end guys in inter-conference games. Bruins backup Tuukka Rask is no slouch, but then neither is Affable Anders. If Thomas and Rinne start, first team to two goals might win it. It'll also be the B's first game since getting sliced 6-0 by the Sabres. Preds could easily win in Beantown and back home, but three points in two games would make for a handy week.


The Irsays could help with the logistics
  • The Irsays could help with the logistics

Keeping Up With The Irsays: The praise has been effusive for Indianapolis after the Circle City did, by most reports, a bang-up job of hosting the Super Bowl, despite being a city so boring, there is indeed just one thing to do there, so it tops this list.

Now, of course, if Indianapolis can do it — so can Nashville. Thus was the chatter on Monday morning sports talk radio. And just like Nashville-as-major-league-baseball-town, this is little more than false hope and New South boosterism blended into a sweet tasting cocktail of nonsense.

The Super Bowl was in Indianapolis for one reason: wacky Jim Irsay — with significant help from the taxpayer — built a fancy dome.

"Nice job, Jim," the NFL said. "Now, turn down Willy And The Poor Boys and let's get you a Super Bowl."

In Nashville, we have no dome. We have LP Field. And we aren't getting a dome. We're getting $25 million in elevators and fan zones and "Will this keep you happy for awhile, Mr. Adams?"

The old conventional wisdom is that stadia lasted 30 years or so. That was in the days before public financed improvement bonds and high-tech construction practices. The new conventional wisdom is stadia last as long as the owner of the prime tenant is happy with them.

Yes, New York is getting The Big Game and their stadium is outside and in a non-tropical climate.

But the New York/New Jersey Metroplex has an advantage Nashville doesn't: It's the New York/New Jersey Metroplex. Plus, Super Bowl XLVIII could be an unmitigated disaster of the logistical and meteorological variety ending with Roger Goodell proclaiming forever the Super Bowl will be played either inside or south of 39 degrees north latitude.

Perhaps the city should have considered a dome when it started showing some leg to the Oilers back in the 1990s — no doubt, Nashville would be in play for the SEC football title game, perhaps even a NCAA Final Four and the Music City Bowl would benefit from a bump up the post-game ladder if played under cover. But — like NBA hoops and big-league baseball — that ship sailed. A dome isn't likely any time soon and a country-fried Super Bowl is as likely as Peyton Manning in two-tone blue.

Suggestions for late 50s doo-wop songs that might make sense as a goal song? General complaints? E-mail The 'Drome at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And be sure to listen for my hour on 102.5's Sports Revolution between 4 and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.

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