This Week In The Drome: The Titans' perpetual war at quarterback, baseball's Battle of Nashville, the Preds' Vegas vacation, and more ...
Matt vs. Jake : It'll be open competition for the starting quarterback spot for the Tennessee Titans. Coach Mike Munchak promised as much after last season's 9-7 finish.
But this won't be some arms-length, cold-shoulder, retreat-to-separate corners deal. Matt Hasselbeck — grizzled vet of 11 NFL seasons — and Jake Locker — young thundercat who showed much promise in limited action — will hang out together.
The key factor in who gets the nod in Week One against New England, according to the coach, will be who gives the team the best chance to win in the season's first quarter. Erstwhile crumb catcher enthusiast/coach Jeff Fisher often discussed the 16-week season as four quarters, and his successor seems to follow that philosophy — still not distancing himself from Fisher in any meaningful way.
As Jon Manasso notes — analyzing via this story from The Tennessean — that first quarter is the toughest stretch of the year for the Two Toners: AFC champ New England at home, on the road to perpetual bugbear San Diego, home against the resurgent Lions and on the road at AFC South favorite Houston.
If win-now continues to be the mantra at Baptist Sports Park — and with Bud Adams staring down 90, that's a safe bet — it's likely Hasselbeck gets the nod. He played well last year and will have a healthy Kenny Britt to throw to with a committed-to-excellence Chris Johnson in the backfield.
But should he? If Locker's development has moved forward at all, even without Hasselbeck's experience, the second-year man might be the best choice. As he was down the stretch last year.
Locker and Hasselbeck are going to keep everything civil in this impending battle, but come late July, Munchak will have to make the call: the safe-bet vet or the best-chance young gun.
The Week Behind
The Battle Of Nashville : Ah, mid-June. When Nashville's thoughts turn to self-congratulatory boosterism and people try to stuff one more pro sports franchise into the city, despite all the reasons not to try.
Fitting then, that two of MLB's most financial-moribund franchises featured a Wednesday night pitching match-up hotter than a Prince's leg quarter.
The Mets rolled out knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, while the Tampa Bay Rays sent David Price to the hill. And in this one, it was Dickey's wizardry — his knuckler dancing like Michael Jackson at his moonwalking zenith — besting Price's heat.
Dickey has now thrown 32 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball — the Rays lone run in the 9-1 loss was unearned. He retired 22 straight after giving up what was ruled an infield single to B.J. Upton.
Dickey may, in fact, have been robbed of a no-hitter. The speedy Upton was hardly out of the batter's box when David Wright — perpetual bane of fantasy baseball managers everywhere — botched a barehanded attempt at third. The scorer marked a hit for Upton; the Mets are appealing.
Obviously, the interleague Mets-Rays game isn't a match-up that comes around often. Nevertheless, Nashville could see its two prized arms face-off again. Dickey and Price have good cases to start the All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Garbage Time: No matter where he plays next season, it will be new to Alexander Radulov. Coming off David Poile's announcement he'd look to ship the Russian forward, his rights in the KHL were also traded from Salavet Ufa to CSKA Moscow. ... Hey, the Titans signed a center! And they shedded the boffo contract of Daniel Graham. ... Derrick Mason retired as a Raven, telling 102.5 that he loved the Titans fans but had some issues with the organization.
Scared Straight: Sure, the NFL could have rolled out the choir boys for its annual rookie symposium. They could have scheduled lectures from Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy (and probably will).
And this year, the NFL will use a counter-example to put the fear of God into the rooks: Pacman Jones, alleged spitter, assaulter, ne'er-do-well, admitted conspirator in a Vegas nightclub shooting and twice-suspended cornerback and kick returner formerly of the Titans.
Jones, perhaps anticipating the criticism, said, "The message is, this is not a joke." If it is a joke, it is both clever and well-crafted, but who better to tell the new players what's expected of them than a guy who's made more bad decisions than the cast of Teen Mom?
Meanwhile, once Vince Young gets this law suit sorted out, The 'Drome expects him to lead the 2013 session on "Choosing Agents." Kenny Britt — who has had a few head-scratching decisions himself — is taking a step in the right direction: his mansion pool party is limited to the 25-and-older crowd.
Face? : What exactly did Chancellor David Williams mean here? It's two bowl games in four years — and you lost one. To a team from the Big East. As Friend of The 'Drome Bobby Briggs (not his real name) said, take some advice from Winston Wolf. (It's from Pulp Fiction, you guys, so you know — NSFW.)
From The Dead Trees : In this week's Nashville Scene Pride Week issue, I discuss the You Can Play project and Shea Weber's role therein with founder Patrick Burke, who's a heckuva cool dude. Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood told the UK's The Independent that she supports gay marriage, and that she and Predator husband Mike Fisher attend a "gay friendly" church. Last year, Fisher's agent Todd Reynolds tweeted a message of opposition to gay marriage. Fisher did not comment (on either story). .... And in this week's City Paper: an examination of the Nashville Diamond Wars, an air battle played out on local sports talk.
The Week Ahead
Vegas Vacation: Do you like awkward interviews? Guys dressed like movie ushers or in otherwise ill-fitting suits? Nickelback? Obvious MOR award presenters?
Then the NHL Awards (6 p.m. Wednesday, NBC Sports Network) are for you!
Even if you don't like all those awful things (and good for you), there's reason to tune in. The Predators have a chance at four trophies at the soiree. Even if The Predator Way can't win a Cup, it might win some trophies
Mike Fisher is up for the NHL Foundation Award for his work in the community. General manager David Poile is nominated for the GM of the Year trophy, as he has been every year its existed. Pekka Rinne is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the league's top goaltender. Shea Weber is up for the Norris given to the best defenseman.
Worthless Prediction: Weber has the best chance here. Despite David Poile being roundly lauded for his moves before the trade deadline (bear in mind these awards are determined before the playoffs), surely last summer's fax problems weighed on voters' minds. Rinne will certainly have to wait for another year. And Fisher? Who knows?
Stuck Inside Of Memphis : Newcomers always ask about the Nashville-Memphis rivalry and from whence it was born.
I have no good answers here, though a prevailing theory is that it dates to Estes Kefauver's feud with Boss Crump, which would make sense if Kefauver was from Nashville and not Madisonville.
Anyway, it's probably more correct to say it's one of those natural things that happens between two big cities in the same state. My favorite line from the otherwise bland Castaway was Tom Hank's character's exasperation that Memphis (briefly and disinterestedly) was home to an NFL team which had since gone on to Nashville and then the Super Bowl.
In the meantime, Memphis scored its own pro team with a geographically absurd nickname, sniping the NBA's Grizzlies from Vancouver. Now owner Michael Heisley has decided to sell to a 34-year-old one-time billionaire named Robert Pera.
The immediate fear is that Pera — who has, like Heisley, no ties to Memphis — will pack up the team at the first chance, which per the team's lease is 2021 (with enough money, any lease is breakable — good luck getting that deposit back, though).
This is a common fear when absentee owners buy teams. Outside of pro football — where the revenues are plentiful — buying a sports team is a risky venture for someone looking to turn a profit. Expenses are high — especially on the payroll side if a team wishes to enjoy any form of success — and owners are, often rightly, perceived as robber barons intent on extracting as much as they can from their host cities and the loyal fans.
Pera has given precious few comments since the sale — that is to say: none. It's unlikely he'd be able to move the team to his home base of San Jose with the Golden State Warriors already ensconced in the Bay Area. But Seattle still wants a team to replace the Sonics, tears of their fans mixing in with the ubiquitous rain as the Oklahoma City Thunder play for a title. And Vancouver may want a team again, too (no idea if Heisley's 2001 purchase included an all-important "No Backsies" clause). Pera may well back up the trucks and move to whichever place gives him the best deal.
Predators fans had bouts of indigestion when it looked inevitable one absentee owner would sell to another, moving the team to Ontario. A last minute save by the cadre of locals kept that from happening. There's a succession plan in place for when Bud Adams goes to that great oil field in the sky, but he's never laid stakes here and neither has his family.
It's easy (and often, fun!) to poke Memphis, but remember this:
Every time our favorite team does something selfish, for purely business reasons, we take it personally. Because we want to believe that they love us as much as we love them. But they don't. They just rub up against whoever has the most money
E-mail The 'Dromemaster at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com, and listen every Tuesday at 4 p.m. to 102.5 The Game's Sports Revolution. As you know, I consider Walter "Walt The Stalt" Williams a personal hero. Help me achieve the equivalent of the 1984 CBA title.