Friday, December 21, 2012

The Hippodrome: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 8:47 AM

This Week In The Drome : Local hoops, R.A. Dick-eh, Brett Kern punts again, The Ottoman Empire and more ...

Brett Kern punting
  • Brett Kern punting

Opening Face-off

Bland vs. Tortuous : There is bad. And bad isn't bad if a team is so bad they can get better (witness 2011's Bad Colts turning into 2012's Playoff Colts).

And bad isn't bad if bad isn't boring, like any number of MAC games.

I harp on this a lot — that fans will tolerate a bad team if there's hope or if there's something aesthetically pleasing about the horror.

Finding a willing partner in the Jets for their dance macabre Monday night, the Titans were bad — not as bad as the Jets, but still pretty terrifying — and the game was boring. It's easy to call it a trainwreck — so horrible it's hard to turn away. But trainwrecks have speed and power, the tangible might of the American industrial machine careening off a track.

Monday night's game was only watchable in that it was utterly unwatchable. And if there is any lesson coming out of it, it's that Mike Munchak increasingly looks like a coach who doesn't want to lose — or at least lose badly — rather than one who wants to put his boot on the neck of the other team.

The lone highlight was Chris Johnson's record-setting 94 yard touchdown run. It took less than 11 seconds — which is pretty remarkable considering those 94 yards didn't come as the crow flies and CJ was weighted down by football equipment (he was wearing shoes inscribed with the names of the Newtown victims, but he's worried about the attention). Pity the poor soul who had to put a 30-second package together about the game, more so to the ESPN production assistant who had to find two whole minutes of replays in what was the worst Monday Night Football game in 30 years and perhaps ever since Rock Island beat Decatur in 1921.

The Monday game has lost its luster — any remaining suspicions it still counted as a marquee game was erased sometime between Brett Kern's seventh punt and Mark Sanchez's fourth interception — and yet it's still a national event.

And Monday's display of smack-head football was a perfect lead-in to the holidays. The Titans so woefully impersonated a professional football team, it compels us to apologize to the rest of the country, like the first time your significant other has to sit down to turkey dinner with Racist Uncle Eldridge.

It's awful. We know it. We're sorry. We've been eating this turkey all year.

The Week Behind

Brett Kern punting again
  • Brett Kern punting again

Moose Knuckle : 'Drome favorite R.A. Dickey was traded this week from the Mets to the Toronto Blue Jays in a swap that had more catchers than a slip cordon.

The reigning National League Cy Young winner travels north of the border — where his teammates will include fellow UT alum catcher J.P. Arencebia — to join a Toronto team which has made headline-grabbing moves all through the hot stove (please note: they turn the hot stove on in August in Toronto).

Court Report : MTSU and TSU renewed an old OVC rivalry — and encouraged my dreams of a Dixie-fried Little Five — Tuesday night. The Raiders trounced the Tigers and TSU lost their best player in the process. Vandy keeps banking wins in the non-conference schedule, running a win streak to three with a win against Cornell. Kevin Stallings is now tied with Roy Skinner for most wins inside Memorial Gym. Here Comes Treble did not perform. Lipscomb hit the road to play Kentucky at Rupp and Belmont headed to Phog Allen Fieldhouse for a game against Kansas. Didn't really go well for either, though the Bisons (sic) Thursday game against Memphis was closer than our friends to the west expected.

Garbage Time : Congratulations to Cedar Hill's Chad Masters for winning a gold buckle at the National Finals Rodeo in steer roping. ... James Franklin was named a finalist for the Bryant Award for college football's coach of the year. ... Kevin Dyson's miraculous ascent through secondary school administration has led to him being named AD and assistant principal at the soon-to-be-opened Stewarts Creek High, one yard short of the school's top spot. ... The US Women's National Team will play a game at LP Field in February. They are an early 3.5 point favorite over the Titans.

Halftime Entertainment

Once again, Brett Kern punting
  • Once again, Brett Kern punting

Small Ball : Last week in The 'Drome I suggested it may be time for Nashville and AAA baseball to part ways.

It prompted an excellent discussion on Twitter about what the future of the pastime and Nashville should be. Friend of 'The Drome Zack Bennett made an interesting suggestion:

I argue the opposite re: MiLB. I think Nashville would be better served dropping to the AA level, and let it be exactly what it is. ... Scale back the plans, build a nice little 7500-seat ballpark, maybe even out in an outlying county. ... The Huntsville Stars, for example, would KILL to be in Nashville, playing before 5000 fans. Let the Sounds go elsewhere.

Thinking about it, this may be the best solution. When AAA works, it works when it's the biggest game in the city, at least on the professional level. In Nashville, obviously, this is no longer the case. But AA — which, these days, is often where the best young players spend the bulk of their time — is more comfortable in a smaller setting. It doesn't necessarily need a glittering downtown ballpark. There's plenty of land in Cool Springs, for example, or Hendersonville, both places with the tax base to spend for a stadium. Further, the well-heeled suburbs love to show off to the other well-heeled suburbs. Imagine the snide Desperate Housewives-style trash-talking such an arrangement would provide (full disclosure: I feel comfortable in stereotyping the 'burbs this way as I am, indeed, a product of one of them).

Bennett's suggestion — whether serious or not — of moving the Stars from Huntsville is intriguing as well. The Milwaukee Brewers say they like having an affiliate in Nashville because travel is easy. The Southern League's Stars are the AA club of the same Brewers organization of which the Sounds are a member. Not to mention, the Stars were once the Sounds. Back in the old days, Nashville was a AA town. The AA Sounds moved to Huntsville and Nashville then took over the Evansville Triplets AAA franchise which then bore the Sounds name.

The arrangement could assuage the crowd which wants to keep baseball a part of the sporting life of the city (or the area, at least), while at the same time eliminating the marketing problem a not-quite major league AAA team has in a big-league city.

Tweet O' The Week : Kenny Britt ain't got time for your fantasy team.

The Week Ahead

Hey look! Brett Kern punts once more.
  • Hey look! Brett Kern punts once more.

A Sporting Event At The Big Sporting Venue At Fifth & Broadway! : In what's become something of a holiday tradition, college basketball comes to Bridgestone this weekend.

MTSU and Vandy play tonight followed by Western Kentucky and Louisville Saturday.

Tonight's Battle of I-24 sets up nicely: Middle has proven to be better than expected and Vandy —predictable struggles that come with losing three first-round NBA draft choices notwithstanding — has rattled off a few wins.

Were this game at Memorial, with all its real tennis quirkiness, I'd like the Commodores. Certainly, Kevin Stallings' team is finding its way a bit better than it did in the early part of the season. This is a good test for both teams as conference play approaches.

Kudos to the athletic department at MTSU and the not-technically an athletic department at Vandy for setting this up. Often, non-conference basketball — and especially non-conference basketball around the holidays — is a drag, but putting these two on a relatively big stage is a winner.

Worthless Prediction : MTSU by 5. Louisville by 15.

Minus-8: Game Time Wind Chill or Titans Final Score? : Not that it would matter, really, but the Titans take a bad beat from the NFL scheduling office here. Coming off a short week, the team heads to Green Bay Sunday.

It's expected to be brutally cold at Lambeau — somewhere in the 20s, or as the Packers' faithful call it "oh not too bad!" — and all those swirling winds sure should help Jake Locker completely miss receivers down field.

The Titans will want to run the football, but after they fall behind 17 or 21 midway through the second quarter, they'll have to abandon that plan. It'll be exciting to see which undrafted free agents make an impact for the Titans this week.

Worthless Prediction : The Titans give us an early Christmas gift and just try desperately to shorten the game. It won't matter. Green Bay 31, Tennessee 10.


And finally: Brett Kern punting.
  • And finally: Brett Kern punting.

The Signaling : There's a segment of academics who argue the downfall of the Ottoman Empire was due, in part, to the complex and — if you'll pardon the pun — byzantine protocol which grew up around its court.

There was much intrigue and coded language, such a need by the viziers and the eunuchs and the Çikadar to insulate the Sultan while serving his interests, that it became increasingly impossible to discover what was actually happening.

This stilted, elaborate code of thought and word was so ingrained, it was given capital letters: The Ottoman Way. And eventually the realm of the Seljuk sultans collapsed under the weight of its own ceremony (and, you know, because of the First World War and rising nationalism and so on).

Business negotiations share a lot of the attributes of this what-was-unsaid-was-what-was-said world. After a few days of silence following the kabuki of the Fehr press conference, the two sides in the NHL labor dispute seemed to resume their speaking-in-code negotiations.

On Canadian radio, the NHL's Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, unequivocally, there would be an NHL season, but he added, "There does need to be a reason to meet. Given, I guess, where we are, somebody has to have a new idea or something new to put on the table to move the process along."

If that was, as I suspect, an entrée, Fehr responded in kind: "The owners have not indicated a desire to resume. We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume when they are. We're willing to resume without preconditions. So we're waiting to hear back from them."

My original prediction of a deal by mid-month obviously missed. My prognostication hockey would return on New Year's is likewise doomed. But don't be shocked if this latest signaling gets the parties back together to hammer a deal. The prevailing wisdom is that neither side wants to be the first to blink and that both are willing to take it down to the last minute (a 48-game season probably can't start after January 20; a deal would need to be made around January 10).

Let's hope, though, that despite the lawsuits, the dispute stays out of court. And out of the realm of the doomed Ottoman Court, too.

Have a wonderful Christmas. Drop your holiday greetings to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. No radio for me for a few weeks, but I'll be back on 102.5 The Game on Tuesdays at 6 pm January 8.

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