This Week In The 'Drome: A classic conundrum, a predictable outcome, flicking the scabs and more ...
Boring And Good vs. Exciting and Bad : This week in the dead-tree, I talk about the takeaway from the Titans' win in the Music City Mayhem game against Detroit.
The four-hour trampoline act that was the game against the Lions produced plenty of talking points and lots of questions, the most notable of which was, "Who are these guys?"
The Titans' taste for blandness dates back to those heady days when they first planted roots on the East Bank. They were boring then, too, but we didn't care because they were good at it.
The problem has been — and especially in the last two seasons — that they've been boring and bad.
It's OK for a football team to be boring if they are winning games. Gary Danielson described Alabama's
58-0 52-0 thrashing of Arkansas as analogous to watching someone get a piano dropped on their head. At their best, the Crimson Tide's offense is the gridiron equivalent of someone driving railroad spikes for three hours. Even for Alabama fans, there is little joy in Nick Saban's process. The ends justify the means, but the means are as captivating as the The McLaughlin Group blooper reel.
What the Titans produced on Sunday was sublime, surreal. It was Dorothy walking into the Technicolor of the Land of Oz after growing up in the sepia tones of Depression-era Kansas. It was Chris Tavare turning into a slogging, skyballing madman in Kent after dribbing, drabbing and blocking his way to three-day 50s for England.
Did the Titans turn some philosophical corner against the Lions, or was this monsoon the result of a perfect storm? There may be future slot-machine scores in their future — Jake Locker, at the least, has a propensity for throwing down field. But for the excitement to result in wins, the defense must stiffen.
But if they must be bad, let them be bad with an exclamation point.
The Week Behind
Ugg, Uhh: James Franklin pulled the old quarterback switcheroo ahead of Vandy's game with Georgia. Unfortunately, the guy he switcherooed too didn't do his own Hayley Mills swap with his brother.
The Commodores got boat-raced by the Bulldogs in Athens 48-3 and it may not have been that close.
The 'Dores have yet to find their identity, which may be related to their inability to find a quarterback. Or the end zone, for that matter.
Will it be Carta-Samuels? Will it be Rogers? Does Bill Wade have any eligibility remaining?
There's an old saw about having two quarterbacks means a team has no quarterbacks. Right now, even that sounds like an improvement.
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for Vandy whose offseason promise — promise, by the way, buttressed by Franklin himself — is fading like Marty McFly's hand at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance.
They Had Something: Kudos to Titans color man Frank Wycheck, who, with a few shouts of "He's got something," deftly alluded to the Music City Miracle in his call of the gimmicky punt return on Sunday, which borrowed mightily from No. 89's finest moment in two-tone blue.
And that play — which is, apparently, called "Maroon-6," presumably to distinguish it from the Maroon-5-ish MOR which is much of the Titans playbook — was just one of many eye-poppers foisted upon the unprepared masses by the Titans' brain trust in their 44-41 overtime win against the Lions.
There have been many victims in the mass distraction of the scab referees' ineptitude. But the fact that this game did not get hours of play on the highlight shows is a travesty.
Nate Washington's catch over the defender's back was the kind of sublime, extemporaneous creativity that makes professional sports so compelling. Jared Cook's long touchdown was his monthly reminder that he might be extra-special.
Heck, Rob Bironas missed two field goals! That's a man-bites-dog-level event.
Before the game turned the wacky meter up to 37 in the fourth quarter, Jake Locker looked better than he has at any time in his brief NFL career, zipping passes with the accuracy of William Tell at a family reunion in an orchard. And a lack of accuracy was supposed to be his biggest flaw.
Lest anybody think everything is hunky dory: Chris Johnson still can't run the ball for whatever reason and with each week, he makes a case for being the NFL's Los Del Rios, his 2,006-yard season his own personal "Macarena."
Garbage Time : Big congrats to 'Drome favorite R.A. Dickey on his 20th win. ... The Vandy women's tennis and lacrosse teams will forfeit games due to a hazing scandal, which at least doesn't involve butt-chugging. ... Cool story from Josh Cooper on a couple of local guys getting to play goalie for the locked-out Predators players keeping fit in Franklin. ... Speaking of the lockout, it's still happening. Pekka Rinne is off to the KHL in the meantime and CBA negotiations resume today.
Jesus, Take A Chill Pill : A sweet moment from Carrie Underwood and her hubby, Predators forward Mike Fisher:
Underwood, who travels with her dogs, Penny and Ace, on the road, was delighted the day of the interview, because Fisher had surprised her with an unannounced visit to Atlanta. But she doesn’t expect the National Hockey League lockout to give them too much extra time together.
“He’s such a disciplined guy that he has to train and make sure he’s ready regardless of what’s going on,” she says. “He’s got so much to do on his end, and I certainly don’t want to be the cause of him not being able to give it his all.”
Still, Underwood is hopeful there may be more surprise visits in her future. “Is it wrong for me to be a little happy (about the lockout)? I mean, ‘I’m sorry for you, but it’s great for me.’"
Her candor here is admirable. Of course, who wouldn't want to spend more time with their spouse? And it's not like the Underwood-Fishers need Mike's salary to keep food on the table since Carrie sold something like 939 bazillion albums last year.
The backlash was predictable from hockey fans, as if Carrie Underwood's comments carry some kind of weight in the labor negotiations.
"Wait? The 'Before He Cheats' singer wants the lockout to keep going? Well, I guess we'll get back to splitting up this $3.3 billion sometime after her tour is over!"
And then there was reverse backlash from Underwood fans to hockey fans, the former thinking the latter cared at all about they had to say.
"Meatpeepers": The brilliant Bomani Jones in the latest episode of his NSFW "Bomani & Jones" YouTube series lays out why people care and why they shouldn't about Vince Young's money. He takes a failed shot at the guy pushing the narrative on how VY squandered his millions. As one might expect, Travis responded here and here with the deft intellectual aplomb we've come to expect.
And as if getting taken down by the hip Jones wasn't enough, Travis got dinged by a vet, too, as Joe Biddle essentially calls him an idiot here.
The Week Ahead
Rolley Holer: Coming off his huge win in the Tour Championship and the subsequent millions earned as FedEx Cup champ, Nashville's Brandt Snedeker joins his American teammates in Medinah, Ill. this weekend for the Ryder Cup. Like Andrew Jackson in New Orleans or Morgan County's marble players, America turns to Tennessee when it needs a boost to beat the Brits (and the rest of Europe).
The Ryder Cup — the biennial U.S. v. Europe match play golf challenge — is one of the world's most underrated sporting events.
The standard crawl of all-day golf watching is replaced by patriotism and team play. There's yelling and cheering and teammates crowding the fringe of the green to encourage their countrymen (or continentmen, as the case may be).
While the vast majority of golf competition is essentially man-versus-course (the other players are inconsequential, one player's score not at all influenced by any others'), match-play golf is mano a mano. In the Ryder Cup, the extra element of team play makes it closer to the way duffers play. It's a glorified scramble played by the world's best for national pride.
Worthless Prediction : Brandt saves the day! We all end up saying things like "dormie" and "all square" and "halved" like it's no big deal. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Jeez, We Give You The Guy Who Gave Your Name And This Is The Thanks We Get?: Sam Houston's law office is on Lebanon's square.
No, it's true, there's a plaque and everything. That was before Sam rode off to Texas and became a Senator and Governor and hero and namesake of the state's biggest city. But, yes, for years, he practiced law in Wilson County.
I fully expect Ian Eagle to share this little tidbit of information sometime in the third quarter when the Texans are beating the Titans by a couple of touchdowns and are running the ball at will to speed the game along.
Last week's game against the Lions was a pleasant diversion. The game was on Fox, so Eagle and his buddy Dan Fouts — the duo who are still trying to make the nickname "The Bird and The Beard" stick — didn't occupy their usual position in the press box above a Titans game, a place they occupy so often Bud Adams is going to charge them rent.
But we're back to normal this week: Ian and Dan calling another Titans defeat.
Worthless Prediction: Won't be close and the Texans will hang at least five touchdowns on the Two Toners. Houston 38, Tennessee 10.
Flicking Scabs: The chatter had always been it would take a powerful owner losing a game because of a bad call to get the NFL's dispute with its officials resolved. The fans, because they keep watching no matter how horrendous the officiating, didn't matter in this stare down.
Count it as irony, then, that the team who was screwed — the Green Bay Packers in the Sleepwalk In Seattle — is, in fact, owned by the fans and, as such, has the least powerful owner(s).
But with all the talk of the NFL focused on the referees, with everyone from the President to the woman on The View, talking about how flat dumb the officiating had been, a deal was done, with some estimates saying the NFL and the refs' union meeting for 26 of 35 hours between Monday and Tuesday.
So the regular real officials returned Thursday night to call a game between
two NFL teams an NFL team and also the Browns. Ed Hochuli's guns will be back on the field this weekend.
All is right with the world.
Except it was a world turned upside down, at least politically.
The late Art Modell made a famous crack about his fellow owners: "We're 26 Republicans, and we run our business like socialists!"
And that juxtaposition went a step farther with the referees' lockout.
Firebreathing anti-labor conservatives turned into Mother Jones when it came to the NFL's dispute with its officials. Scott Walker, of all people, demanded the NFL make a deal. (Being governor of Wisconsin where the Packers are a bigger deal than any policy made that a politically expedient move.)
Sports, at their best, are a uniting force. Cities can come together with no regard for black or white, left or right. And politicians who spend massive time busting unions become full-throated labor activists.
When it comes to football, politics stop at the sidelines.
Have other examples of inexperienced, under-trained replacements pretending to be the real McCoy (no Browns items, please)? Fire 'em off to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Get the audio companion to the 'Drome every Tuesday evening as I join Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland on 102.5 The Game between 6 and 7.