by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome : Mid-majors flex, Titans vex, VY's specs, the Sounds hex and more ...
Fame vs. Infamy: Though forged by revolution, the idea of "Belgium" — tenuous though it has been for most of its existence — was embraced by Europe's Great Powers.
It was a conveniently located buffer state squeezed between bellicose Germany, powerful France and the ever-pragmatic Dutch. Plus it was a nice place to visit on your way to invading somewhere else. Except in times of great conflagration, it was largely ignored by its more powerful neighbors. Although maybe France should have looked at a map every now and then.
Yet, every now and then, little Belgium would stretch its chocolate- and beer-soaked wings and remind the rest of Europe it existed, as it did when King Leopold II of The Belgians (but not of Belgium) decided to set up a little real estate company down in Africa.
I make the case in the dead-tree that we are seeing similar attention-grabbing boldness from the Belgiums of college sport. MTSU finally making the move to Conference USA was obvious, but Western Kentucky hiring Bobby Petrino and his baggage was a haymaker.
Bringing in Petrino did the headline-grabbing deed for the 'Toppers — when was the last time their coach was a guest on national radio? — but it's a calculated risk, as hiring a lying, mercenary adulterer usually is.
In the long-term, WKU's dalliance with Petrino may work out. Or it may end like it did for Belgium, in an embarrassing protracted shambles, remembered only as the second B in an ABAB rhyme scheme, shoehorned into poetry with "Edsel is a no-go" in one of the most regrettable songs in a discography, rock and roll's equivalent of the list column.
The Week Behind
Ugh: That was an exciting 30 minutes of football Sunday, wasn't it? The young Titans showed much promise as the good guys busted out to a 13-point halftime lead.
But like the faint glimmer of the Titans playoff hopes — which also went the way of airship travel Sunday — it flittered away. The Colts took a 21-20 lead on Cassius Vaughn's short touchdown return of a Jake Locker interception so telegraphed Marconi took half-credit. Though just the smallest of leads, it was apparent the Titans were not going to win — and indeed they did not. The one-point lead might as well have been 50.
It was too many mistakes punctuated by too many injuries on a day with too many offensive plays that looked too much like too many others.
Nashville was handed the Titans — in exchange for a new stadium — at a time the team started to peak. Fans here have never had to suffer through the dregs of an NFL rebuild or the slog through the muck of less-than-mediocrity. But look around now and it's clear the team is at rock-bottom. What's worse is too many ifs have to pan out for there to be a glimmer of hope for the future — if Locker can develop, if Chris Johnson's return to form is sustainable, if Kenny Britt can stay healthy and out of trouble, if Kendall Wright can follow up what has quietly been a pretty darn good rookie year, if Jared Cook stays, and if he doesn't, if he can be replaced.
If not, it'll be same as it ever was for an awful long time.
Transitive Property Conference Game: Belmont is weeks away from its first conference slate as a member of the OVC, which once counted MTSU as a member. So this game was, kinda sorta, a renewal of a rivalry that never existed.
As it stands, it was a pretty intriguing non-conference game — by the way, someone ought to get the area's ADs together and copy Philly's Big Five for midstate schools.
Belmont has some nice early season wins — ending the nation's longest winning streak at Stanford was notable — and, as always, Rick Byrd has some prolific pure shooters who, if it's all falling, can do some damage. MTSU was a bit of a wild card heading into 2012-13, having lost Leron Dendy to graduation, but Kermit Davis' team has also rattled off some pretty solid early season victories — beating previously unbeaten Ole Miss last week.
Thus Byrd will count Thursday's 64-49 victory against the Raiders in the "quality win" column. It helped, certainly, that the Blue Raiders found themselves colder than Jon Gruden's shoulder in the second half. The visitors could have found the bottom of the Mariana Trench easier than they found the bottom of the basket.
Belmont was a pre-season favorite in their new conference and the Dendy-less Raiders were predicted as also-rans in theirs. Early success had both thinking about March. Thursday's game showed only one may truly be ready for prime time.
Garbage Time: In addition to be terrible at football, the Titans are terrible at Twitter and the rest of the social media game, which is too bad, because there's some coaches whose LinkedIn pages might need updating. ... TSU's star runner is going pro for some reason. ... R.A. Dickey graces the cover of SI. ... Vandy's sold out its bowl allotment already. ... The NHL cancelled games through Dec. 30 and a former councilman asks Gary Bettman to get it together. The President has chimed in for a second time. And Colin Wilson — the Socratic wonder who once famously (?) tweeted "Cowgirl butts drive me nuts" — gets his righteous indignation on.
Bill Boner Is Now A High School Basketball Referee: This week is the Scene's annual Boner Awards issue, which made the column about Bobby Petrino appropriate. As always, our local sports types got their very own special section, featuring appearances by Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Eddie George, James Franklin and Shaun White.
I'm Not So Sure I Disagree With Him, Though: There is some woeful quarterbacking on some NFL teams and also from the Arizona Cardinals.
But Vince Young can help. Via the Twitter, the world's fastest steakhouse proprietor asked Cards star wide-out Larry Fitzgerald to let his coach know that Vince is available. Very available.
Breaking: College Football Very Popular In South: Shocking no one, three Tennessee cities are among the markets with the strongest ratings for ESPN's college football coverage.
Cruciverbalism: Former Predators enforcer — and, at some point — radio color analyst Stu Grimson was the answer in the New York Times crossword puzzle. Head over to On The Forecheck for a Latin/hockey pun so good, I'd wish I'd come up with it myself.
Tweet O' The Week: Poor Jared Cook might want to check the credentials of the doctors doing his surgery.
The Week Ahead
All My Rowdy Friends Are Watching Something Else: It's no secret that with NBC taking the Sunday night game, that contest is now the NFL's weekly feature, usurping the position Monday Night Football long held.
That said, MNF still has its devotees and still scores well nationally. On behalf of the Tennessee Titans and the people of Nashville, I apologize to you, American football fan, for what you will be watching on ESPN. Although, if the stress of the holidays is costing you sleep, by all means, tune in.
The most interesting thing about the game against the Jets on Monday is that the Jets were once the Titans. And that is easily the most interesting thing about this game between two AFC sort-of-rans.
The most thrilling modern-day story line is that Tim Tebow will be the Jets back-up, so if it comes down to a battle of second-stringers, the Titans are far better equipped than New York.
Even the drama that surrounds New York teams generally and the Rex Ryan-era Jets specifically can't elevate this one. If you've got some Christmas gift-wrapping left to do, this one should serve as decent background noise for that tedium. Also, the TV listings tell me that the program Roseanne's Nuts will be airing simultaneously, so you can watch an once-relevant institution make a vain attempt to seize past glory by airing during prime-time. Or you can watch that Roseanne program.
Worthless Prediction: The Titans aren't good. And neither are the Jets, particularly. Tickets are available for this one. Titans 20, Jets 17.
Just Like Russell Branyan: Through it all — and as Royals fan, that's been an awful lot — I still love baseball (and not just because it's cricket's nephew).
As The Great Bromider tells us: When you love something, you must set it free.
The Sounds and Metro are in another round of lease negotiations for Greer Stadium, because there's no money from the former to build their own park and no political will from the latter to do the same.
This week in The City Paper, I argue it may be time to bid the minor leaguers adieu.
As those sterling ratings tell us, Nashville is a college sports town. We fell hard in love with the Titans — though, again, that affair may be softening. We've grown to love the Predators — though the depth of that affection is being tested with this lockout.
But before the big leagues came, we had the Sounds. They were, indeed, all we had. They were covered by honest-to-God beat writers who often traveled with the team.
But now, despite the availability and affordability of tickets — a not-unimportant virtue these days — we just don't seem to care. As I noted in the Obsession and as the mayor himself noted in an interview, there's been more talk of a new baseball stadium from the fake politicos on Nashville than from the real ones in the non-italicized version. And, in large part, it's because we can't be bothered.
The owners of the team are to be commended for giving it a go, but when they bought, talk of a new stadium was all the rage. They may be feeling they were sold a bill of goods and no one can blame them for that. They claim they are committed to keeping baseball in the Music City and that's honorable, but it's also foolish.
We've moved on. Nashville can't be expected to be a big league town in fall and winter and pretend to be a AAA city in the summer — and don't get me started on whether being a "big league town" means we're a Big League Town.
It's been fun, Sounds. You were a great time in the summer and we promise we'll write every day. But we've grown up. Don't go away mad. But it's time to go.
Got a good Traci Peel story? I want to hear it! Actually, I don't but I'll take your emails at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And listen Tuesdays from 6-7 PM when I join Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland. But not Dave Ramsey.