This Week In The 'Drome: Crazy Russian petro-gazillionaire stealing our precious bodily fluids, Vandy and The Beav, the veracity of Sylvia and more...
American Values v. Dirty Russian Scoundrels: Congratulations to the Harpeth Youth Soccer Association, which is set to ink a development deal with English Premier League team and Champions of All Europe Chelsea FC, which is, of course, located in the London Borough of
Chelsea Hammersmith & Fulham.
The opportunities afforded to the kids of HYSA — which includes the progeny of a number of SouthComm employees — by such a partnership are endless.
But there are some dangers here. Chelsea is owned by kookybat Russian petro-oligarch Roman Abramovich, who has so many alleged crimes and wrongdoings, his Wikipedia page has an extensive "Alleged Crimes and Wrongdoing" section (as well as a "Private Army" section). Abramovich is so shady, he was accused of antitrust violations in Russia, the equivalent of being picked up for pandering in Amsterdam.
But give him credit: His potentially ill-gotten petrorubles have taken Chelsea to the pinnacle of soccer — and even managed to encourage the narrative they are somehow underdogs — and it's that level of skill and commitment to the beautiful game this new partnership will bring to the banks of the Harpeth. Although given Chelsea's record of geographic inaccuracy, Abramovich may insist HYSA bill itself as being located in Belle Meade.
I can hardly wait to see all the young Connors and Jacksons flopping around in mimicry of Didier Drogba and, possibly, a tasered smallmouth bass. And will our young Bieber lookalikes take their sportsmanship lessons and tips on getting along with teammates from John Terry?
So, congratulations, parents and players of HYSA, you've done something no other Tennessee club has ever done. Just keep an eye on your mining rights.
The Week Behind
Leave It To Beaver: Kudos to Tim Corbin and the Vanderbilt baseball who have salvaged a slow start and made a late-season charge, turning into one of the nation's hottest teams.
There is, of course, a reason for this. Because things like "maturing" and "getting experience" and "better pitching and hitting" aren't good enough reasons, plenty of praise has been heaped on The Rally Beaver, the latest in a long line of cutesy animals getting credit for on-the-diamond success. His name is Chance (the Vandy baseballest name in the history of Vandy baseball) and, naturally, he tweets.
Given that we are dealing with teenage and twentysomething athletes, it should come as no surprise their rally animal of choice is a barely veiled double entendre, although the selection of rodent seems to have been made by virtue of a gift from one of the player's moms (she couldn't bring juice boxes like everyone else?).
Anyway, Vandy's having a good go of things in Hoover. The 'Dores opened with a 4-1 win over Georgia and then squeezed with two strikes to get a 3-2 win over South Carolina (that beaver's got some big ... oh whatever).
And last night, Vandy capped things by beating Florida — the old nemesis — 2-1 to advance to Saturday's semifinal, avoiding the repechage and getting a well-earned day off.
Garbage Time: The Titans have inked all of their draft picks but first-rounder Kendall Wright. ... Nice piece from Mike Organ at The Tennessean and Jerome Boettcher in the CP and a follow-up from the WSJ on Nashville's Brian Baker, a tennis phenom whose name inspired hushed, admiring tones from those of us who played tennis in these parts in the mid- to late-90s, but has since become the prodigy time forgot. Fulfilling the narrative, he pulled off an upset in a French Open tune-up and is all of a sudden in said tune-up's semifinal. ... Vandy's struggling in the NCAA women's golf tournament down at the Legends. ... Nashville-based TNA has filed an injunction against wrestling monstrosity WWE related to a defecting employee and Ric Flair (whom we'll visit again in a minute). Reporter Pierce Greenberg has described this story as "wrestley."
Small Time Rock Stars Pick Up Ten New Gigs: Venerable City Paper scribe and all-year beard-wearer Joey Garrison has, after 13 seasons, memorized the Titans game presentation. He knows which video will be played when, which song will get cued up next and how T-Rac will humiliate the jobber wearing the opposing mascot's costume. It's quite a trick and he rolls it out at cocktail parties and the like. He's a real bounder, that Garrison.
All this by way of saying, the Two-Toners' game presentation has gotten a bit stale and predictable, not to mention out of date: Oh boy, that office linebacker spot is still funny! I remember the first time I saw it, during the pilot of Joey!. And compare the relatively young and spry Ric Flair in his Titans pump-up video to the Picture of Dorian Gray version of the Nature Boy currently pimping an energy shot on late-night cable.
Fortunately, the Titans seem to be giving the off-field entertainment a little spruce-up. Besides the new ribbon-boards and whatnot being paid for with $25 million-plus in bonds, the team is also adding (on their own dime) a 30-foot-by-27-foot stage under the north end zone scoreboard.
A hilarious moment during Thursdays Sports Authority meeting saw one member ask if other sports venues had tried something similar — in-game live music performances on a purpose-built stage. The Predators executives in the room must have had a conniption.
But, hey, thumbs up to the Titans for trying to update things. Looks like offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is trying that, too.
Cover Boy: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is in the semifinals to be chosen as the cover athlete of EA Sports' NHL 13. Early and often, kids.
It's Supposed To Be Fun, The Man Says 'Play Ball' Not 'Work Ball' You Know.: Friend of The 'Drome Wade Neely makes a good point this week:
In the world of sports and sports media, it can be easy to forget a simple fact about the industry: This is supposed to be fun.
He passes on his thoughts about the good time the LA Kings are having as the local media discovers the City of Angels have a hockey team which is, you know, pretty dang good. The Kings' social media strategy has been top-notch this year, starting with its best-in-the-biz Twitter, which has rubbed the self-serious types the wrong way, making it practically perfect in every way.
Meanwhile, Friend Of The Drome Sam Page writes about the latent but never-quite-realized statistical revolution in hockey, pointing out its foibles — notably, that unlike baseball, hockey isn't a series of mutually exclusive events. There are, as my fellow bow-tie wearer notes, no equivalents to baseball's Three True Outcomes (NB: "Three True Outcomes" is also the name of my baseball-themed doo-wop group). He doesn't out-and-out say it, but he makes a larger point about trying to watch sports with a jaundiced eye of a computer programmer reducing everything to 1s and 0s: Sports are games; they aren't calculus.
The Week Ahead
Sumner County Speed Racer: After qualifying seventh for the Indy 500, Hendersonvillian Josef Newgarden is getting 20-1 odds to drink the ill-advised bottle of milk Sunday, third-best in the field of 33.
Not knowing much about the auto-racing — although, once, Mario Andretti looked me up and down, asking in his Italian lilt "You're a tall sonofabitch, aren't you?" — I went to the resident SouthComm motorsport expert, NashvillePost editor, Belgian and speaker of 34 languages Geert de Lombaerde.
Geert says the key for Newgarden is to survive the first few laps.
"He's got to keep his nose clean the first half of the race," he says.
At a recent race in Brazil, Newgarden moved up to the outside of the front row due to some engine controversy. Starting outside of Dario Franchetti, he announced pre-race he was going for it, but he was a bit overly aggressive and was knocked out in the first turn.
"He needs to be aggressive but smart," Geert says.
It helps Newgarden, by starting seventh, will be on the inside of the track at the beginning and won't have to be excessively frisky early on.
Newgarden does not have a permanent sponsor: he races in the, appropriately enough, Goodlettsville-based Dollar General livery. But he has a mishmash of a team, so he needs to have clean pit stops.
Worthless Prediction: Score a first-place for the hometown boy, because why not.
Dare We Dream? : Vandy's still in the running for the SEC baseball title, an outcome few could have foreseen just a few weeks ago, but, of course, never count out Tim Corbin (or that dang beaver).
Personally, I like Vandy's chances to take the conference crown. Tournaments frequently benefit the hottest teams to the detriment of the more talented or consistent — this is one of the most salient arguments against a college football playoff — and the 'Dores are hotter than the weekend forecast.
And if they do manage to win the conference? It could mean home dates at the Hawk for the NCAA Regionals, starting next Friday, depending on other tournaments break out. And let's not forget: Belmont's got themselves a pretty darn good squad, too.
Worthless Prediction: Book a weekend at home: Vandy's bringing baseball to the Hawk one more time.
Sylvia, Get Your Head Out Of The Covers: New Tennessean sports editor Dave Ammenheuser introduced himself to 1100's readers with an open letter in the Sunday edition.
Like a modern-day Boccaccio, he framed his point in by telling the story of a chance encounter at a Dickson truck stop with a woman he called Sylvia.
There's no reason to doubt the veracity of this encounter — although the Marylander-by-way-of-California-and-seemingly-everywhere-else could have been less heavy-handed in emphasizing Sylvia's accent: her quotes are sprinkled with swallowed terminal consonants; perhaps Ammenheuser's point is that, "Shucky durn, Sylvia reads my paper and she's just folks and she's the kind of person we want to reach out to, blessherheart, we're just happy to serve!"
Sylvia, for what it's worth, thinks The Tennessean should have more UT coverage, but Ammenheuser shouldn't even think about mentioning Lane Kiffin, that turncoat so-and-so should stay in California where he belongs, by GAWD! Sylvia, you see, is a real person, but she is also a construction of how we all feel about in-movers coming down and telling us how to do stuff.
But Ammenheuser isn't Kiffin, he insists. No, he's not from here (he admits to coming up a Baltimore Colts fan, which raises the question if he's still a fan of the Colts or if his allegiance has switched the Ravens; neither answer is acceptable to us drawling, Lane Kiffin-hating good-old-boys, after all), but he wants to know what we want to read. And if we're Sylvia — and let's face it, we're all Sylvia — we want more Big Orange, goshydurn.
It's a valiant effort from Ammenheuser. Newspapers, quite literally, are dying or shrinking, increasingly incapable of having the warm bodies to satisfy every beat. The days of the 350-person newsroom are gone, replaced by a new era of a flexible writer who has to have the chops of covering televenty beats if not capably, at least suitably.
That said: more UT coverage? I've no doubt this town is crawling with Vols fans. I also have no doubt that most of them are capable of getting on the Internet and seeking out UT coverage originating from places where it can be covered best: from Knoxville, for example. Newspapers, if they are to be saved, are to be saved by tightening and expanding what they can do well and what they can do well is cover local action.
Not to say the state's newspaper of record should ignore UT (or the University of Memphis or Tennessee Tech or the race at Bristol), but their focus should be on what they can and, frankly, frequently do handle the best: the teams in their own backyards.
No matter what Sylvia and her slurred suffixes say.
Got a tip? Hit me up: jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And be sure to listen from 4-5 PM every Tuesday on 102.5 The Game for Bow Tie Time with Willy Daunic and Greg Pogue.