This Week In The 'Drome: Nothing happened this week, unless you count everything; also, cricket and more.
Beatwriters vs. Fatigue: Next time you see your favorite sportswriter, buy the poor, ink-stained wretch a drink.
Even in a normal world — not the wack-a-doodle fantasyland in which we found ourselves — this week would be a busy one: NCAA tournaments starting, the NHL heading for the playoffs and NFL free agency beginning.
But Nashville, suddenly, inexplicably, became the center of the sporting world midweek. Peyton Manning visited, wearing a shirt more carrot soup than UT orange according to David Boclair, who barely had enough to keep his ubiquitous matchstick firmly ensconced in his Howard Schnellenberger mustache. Alexander Radulov wants to come to town to play for Preds again. Vandy and Belmont geared up for March Madness.
The NCAA, gracious enough to let Nashville host second and third round tournament games, treated us with perhaps the least appealing slate of teams of all time (unless Bob Lanier is playing for St. Bonaventure again). And the city's bro-ness ratio increased by a factor of Brek as the U.S. Olympic soccer team arrived ahead of qualifying matches later this month.
It's been a week of Flight Aware and Google Translate and sneaking in peeks at CBS in the odd moment. Maybe a strong cup of coffee would be a better tipple for the beatmen.
The Week Behind
Where We Stand Right This Very Minute: Give credit where it's due to the Mannings: They sure can keep a secret.
After Peyton's departure, little more has been said about his decision, leaving a vacuum in which speculation thrives. We got folks reporting his agent is reviewing a contract on Titans letterhead.
Bud Adams says he offered him a contract for life, which would sound crazy coming from anybody else except The White Suited Warrior-Poet of The Digitus Impudicus. Maybe he can buy Peyton some Donelson apartments.
There's rumors Peyton was offered 10 percent ownership of the team and everyone seems to chalk that up as possible, again because Bud Adams is acting like the rich kid in the teen movie trying to buy his way into a prom date. No one seems willing to ponder the implications of player-as-owner; surely the NFLPA bristles at the notion.
And meanwhile, the Broncos plane is heading for Raleigh, where Peyton is working out.
Meanwhile, in other petroleum-based sports developments: Alexander Radulov wants to come to North America and play out his entry-level contract with the Predators. One problem: His Russian team won't release him from his KHL contract, holding the prodigal Predator behind the Irony Curtain. Radulov could terminate his deal unilaterally by paying back two-thirds of his salary, a payment estimated at eighty bazillion petrorubles. His agent thinks a deal between Radulov, his team Salavat and the KHL can be hammered out amenable to all sides. In the meantime, we wait.
Simiacide: In a normal week, Vanderbilt winning the SEC basketball tournament over Kentucky for the first time since 1951 would be the biggest sports news of the month. Heck, in recent years, Vandy winning its first round NCAA game would be cause for citywide celebration.
After a season full of fits and starts, Kevin Stallings' charges are putting it together at the right time, slaying dragons historical and recent. The wins over Kentucky and Harvard quash the nagging questions about the Commodores ability to win when it counts. Huge psychological barriers removed, can they seize the opportunity?
Like Norman Dale Said, This Is Your Team (For Now): Those trade deadline acquisitions are really starting to click. In their last home game before the West Coast Swing, the Predators handled a hobbled Detroit Red Wings team 3-2, bolstered by the play of the Kostitsyn brothers, inspiring 12-year-olds everywhere (and 12-year-olds at heart) to seek out the best mammary puns.
A sloppy night in Phoenix Monday ultimately resulted in a 5-4 win in the shootout, the lone goal scored by Andrei Kostitsyn, who, in a subdued post-game interview, declared his job was to "score goal." Well done, then, Andrei.
It was another shootout Thursday night in San Jose. Both teams posted power-play goals in regulation, and again but one shooter guessed the coin-flip right in the breakaway contest. This time it was San Jose's Ryan Clowe who broke the tie. Bad news came late in the game, as newly-acquired center and ambidextrous face-off man Paul Gaustad landed awkwardly on his right wrist, leaving the game immediately. A long-term injury to Gaustad would be a serious blow to the Predators — and not just because they gave up a first-round pick for the big centerman.
Garbage Time: TSU got bounced in the first round of the CIT. ... The Titans bolstered their offensive line by signing free agent seven-time Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson. ... The Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association named Jordin Tootoo their Masterton Trophy nominee ... MTSU and UT will meet in the second-round of the NIT Monday night in Knoxville, after beating Marshall and Savannah State, respectively. ... Vandy submitted its report on L'affaire du Quarterback.
Bear With Me and Trust Me: People should read great sportswriting even if it's about a sport they don't care about, if only for the reminder that great sportswriting exists.
We try to keep it local here at The 'Drome, but this stuff is too good not to pass along.
Kid's a Shooter: Down at the TSSAA Boys' State Tournament in Murfreesboro, Lake County's Derrick Swift hit this improbable 75-footer to send a game to overtime. Naturally, Lake County won in the extra period.
The Week Ahead
One Step Beyond: This week in the dead-tree, I wrote about the prospects in the tournament for Vanderbilt and Belmont.
Vandy held up their end of the bargain Thursday, and Belmont certainly has a chance at their first NCAA tournament win later today, a revenge-seeker against Georgetown in Columbus.
A win would be a success for Belmont (though a Sweet 16 appearance isn't out of the question). Now that Vandy's overcome their first-round (er, second round) obstacles, they are primed to make a win, especially since regional No. 1 seed Syracuse is without key piece Fab Melo.
Vandy knows its second (er, third) round opponent: the Bo Ryan-coached Wisconsin Badgers, the Platonic ideal of a sloggy, slow-it-down Big Televenty basketball team. Shooting will be crucial for Vandy as ever Saturday.
Worthless Prediction: Both teams play into the second weekend. Seriously, take next Thursday and Friday off.
Back to Back Then Back and Back Out Again: The Predators wrap up the West Coast road trip with back-to-back games against L.A. and Anaheim this weekend. The former is fighting for a playoff spot; the latter is actually still in it with a very slim chance which essentially requires the Ducks to win out. The Pacific Division is such a cesspool, they might just do it.
The team will return home for a one-off against Edmonton Tuesday — a game which is close to selling out, ticket sales brisk because of a team playing well and no doubted boosted by the prospects of Radulov's return. They'll head back on the road for a Thursday game against Pittsburgh. The Pens are a Stanley Cup contender with MVP favorite Evegni Malkin and the off-the-injured-reserve-for-now Sidney Crosby.
Worthless Prediction: Anders Lindback will put down the cotton candy and probably start one of the two games this weekend, but both the Kings and Ducks are beatable in any event. The Oilers should be no problem, but do have a tendency to give the Preds fits with their youth and speed. And the Penguins are really good. A six point week is a success.
At Least The Women's Selection Committee Knows What It's Doing: The refuse pile of teams the NCAA sent to Bridgestone for the men's tournament is likely not drawing a huge local walk-up crowd, but at least Memorial Gym will have some local flavor for the women's tournament.
The No. 7 seed Commodores will square off against the 10-seeded Lady Raiders Sunday, the first match-up for the teams in 20 years. Duke and Samford play in the other game.
Worthless Prediction: Vanderbilt has a stellar 17-1 home record this year and that should be enough to get past Rick Insell's pressing, tenacious Lady Raiders. The 'Dores may even have a shot against Duke to get to the Sweet 16.
Hostage Taking: The Manning and Radulov situations have led to the word "hostage" has being thrown around Nashville sports chatter this week with impunity. And no one seems to really be thinking about what that means.
By not making a decision, Manning is holding the Titans hostage — handcuffing the Two Toners from making other moves in free agency. Radulov's Russian team is holding him hostage, binding him to a situation from which he wishes to loose himself.
Those are easy metaphorical stones to throw, but neither are exactly right. It's not Manning's fault the Titans are in this situation, it's Bud Adams'. Yes, Manning played for Tennessee and in our heart of hearts we know this is the place he wants to play. So make up your mind already, Peyton! We need to know so the Titans can do what they have to do if you do something else. But this prison — if there is a prison — is a prison of Bud Adams' design. He's the one who decided he wanted to go hot and heavy after Manning. He's the one who usurped his general manager and front office, bigfooting them and telling them to shift all their resources to Peyton's gun, rather than the butter of the defensive line.
And Radulov? If you look up "he made his bed" in the dictionary, it'll have Sasha's smiling face right there. No one made him go AWOL in 2008. No one made him decide to leave the KHL now. It's all him, and if Salavat wants to hold him to the contract, the team is just protecting its own interest. The agreement between the KHL and NHL on player poaching — which is acting as a hang-up to keeping Radulov from simply defecting — was worked out because of Radulov himself.
The waiting games have created a fever pitch, refresh buttons across Nashville broken from constant clicking: fans held hostage by the thirst for information, desperate to know the next step as information leaks piecemeal from Moscow and Raleigh.
If it's a hostage situation, we've all got Stockholm Syndrome.
Don't like cricket? I don't care. But I do want to hear from you: jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Also, be sure to listen to 102.5's Sports Revolution with Willy Daunic and Joe Dubin as I join them every Tuesday at 4 p.m.