by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome: A bright and breezy MCB, Bud Adams fires someone, Rowdy Roddy Piper (for real), Bill, Butler, Mary and more ...
Newer vs. Newest : I'm no great fan of the Music City Bowl being played in the afternoon. The greatest Music City Bowls have always been late-afternoon affairs, the plastic seats at LP Field (or whatever its name happened to be that year) freezing into unyielding blue and red personal cryogenic chambers as the December sun — such as it is — disappears midway through the first quarter.
No matter the weather Nashville's faced in the weeks up to the Music City Bowl, the day of the game, unquestionably, was the most brutal of the season. Whipping winds sending errant pigskins thrown by Boston College quarterbacks into the waiting hands of the SEC's fifth or sixth best defensive backfield.
Those were the good old days, when Kentucky would make the annual pilgrimage to the Music City Bowl, like swallows returning to Capistrano, if the swallows returned to play Syracuse.
Things are different now. New Year's Eve was cold but not brutally so. The game kicked off before lunch. And for the second time in four years, Vanderbilt played host at a stadium not its home, but not too far afield.
Last time 'round, the 'Dores won, but needed the unlikely heroics of a punter to beat the visiting Eagles from BC. This time? The victory over NC State was a breezy innings, a delightful and sweet century settled before tea time.
Sure, 38-24 sounds close, and there were times indeed the game seemed to be in danger of narrowing, but Vandy never let it. The 'Dores forced five turnovers — a season high — and never made the bad mistake.
It was, in short, a most un-Vandy experience. So, perhaps then, it is finally time to put it to bed, that Same Old Vandy trope that is as tired as it is often necessary. It's true the win over NC State was James Franklin's first against a team that finished the year with a winning record, but since he's been bowling twice in two years, all that stat means is that, for once and finally, Vanderbilt is beating the teams it oughta beat. And that's the biggest change of all.
The Week Behind
That's Entertainment! : In the 1970s, as its famous backlot was being demolished, MGM put together a series of That's Entertainment! "documentaries," celebrating the studio's then-collapsing legacy of sprawling and bright big-budget movie musicals.
Aging stars sauntered out to intro their favorite bits from times gone by. It was, unfortunately like too much nostalgia, crass and over-long.
Sunday, the Tennessee Titans, playing in front of an intimate crowd of VIPs, true believers and enablers, played a rollicking game, taking to task the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars 38-20 and falling to No. 10 in April's draft in the process.
In one creative sequence, the Titans harkened back to days of defensive genius, with rookie Zack Brown returning two interceptions for touchdowns with Darius Reynaud making a case for Marc Mariani to make moving plans with two punt returns of his own. Yes, the Titans scored a rapid 28 points all without trusting Jake Locker with the football. It was, some might say, a genius strategy.
Unfortunately, by rehashing the old tropes, the Titans did little to make amends for the steaming pile of tripe they have served up for the past four months. The game likely saved Mike Munchak's job, but Bud Adams — who is now a nonagenarian — sent former GM Mike Reinfeldt packing and putting the assistants on notice.
Like MGM in the '70s — disassembling the backlot and making That's Entertainment may have been a surprise hit, but it won't save the old company long term.
Butler, Mary and Bill : Vandy hoops welcomed 18th-ranked Butler to the Friendly Confines Saturday and were those confines friendly to the visitors indeed.
Butler — led by former Arkansas Razorback Rotnei Clark — bulldogged the 'Dores 68-49, Kevin Stallings' team always a step too slow.
But, as they say, when you lose to Butler, William & Mary are (is?) always just around the corner (not sure who "they" is here). The Tribe (seriously) couldn't throw it in the Cumberland River Wednesday night. Despite the relative ease by which Vandy won — 64-50, though it wasn't that close — Stallings was, shall we say, displeased with his team's effort:
Leading by 12 points with 1:08 left, the Commodores’ veteran coach called a timeout to express his displeasure with his team’s complacent play. He attempted to drive home his point by emphatically slamming down his whiteboard. The clipboard smashed in half and the dry erase marker broke into several pieces, scattering across the Memorial Gymnasium floor.
“I thought they were about to get beat up,” Jeter said. “I’ve seen Coach spaz out but I’ve never seen him break a clipboard.”
Stallings, by the way, is now the all-time leader in wins at Memorial Gym.
One More Thing : Local product David Price avoided arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays, agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal.
Give Me Some Of Your Tots! : In hard-hitting investigative piece from the Wall Street Journal we learn that while some NBA teams give away cash for hitting a half-court shot, our buddies down in Memphis give away a life-time supply of tater tots for swishing the big one:
Cash is the most typical reward for making a half-court shot, with prizes ranging from $1,000 in Utah to $77,777 in Phoenix. In Oklahoma City, the winner gets $20,000—and $100 just for hitting the rim or backboard.
So what's the true value of hitting a half-court shot at a Grizzlies game?
Factoring in the cost of a medium order of tots at a Memphis-area Sonic restaurant ($1.69 plus tax), a 30-year-old fan who lives another 50 years would get $4,628 in free Tater Tots. (Ketchup not included.)
From The Middle School Humor File : Apparently no longer allowed to talk about how hot his assistant's wives are, James Franklin continues his journey through the world of sophomoric humor (and not just as a regular 3HL guest). So pleased was he with Eric Samuels' interception, that he planted the old fake French kiss on his senior safety. The fellas at SBNation get it GIFed.
Tweet O' The Week : You tell 'em, CJ.
The Week Ahead
Deep Blue Something : It's a weird thing to say, but Vandy fans may spend basketball season like much of their SEC brethren: looking at the baseball field and by waiting for football spring practice to begin.
'Dore fans who want to see good basketball can be placated by the fact that Melanie Balcomb has the women's team playing quite well indeed, but the men's team? Well, going .500 in the non-conference was a pretty nice accomplishment.
The Black and Gold open up the SEC campaign next Thursday with a visit from Kentucky. And the good news there is that the big, bad 'Cats have shown signs of vulnerability, being young as they frequently are. Nonetheless, it's going to be a long winter on West End.
Worthless Prediction: Kentucky by at least 15.
Piper's Pit : Crossfire Wrestling, which may have been the only organization which saw the "impending" "closure" of the Fairgrounds for what it was (that is: false), is having its second anniversary event tomorrow night at the Sports Arena.
On the card? Dirty Dutch Mantell. Matt Hardy (by himself). Ricky Morton (tagging with Jerry Lynn, not Robert Gibson, sadly). And a very special Piper's Pit with Rowdy Roddy himself. Pretty cool.
Worthless Prediction: If Ricky Morton doesn't do a Ricky Morton, there is no justice.
Hockey, If You Can Keep It : In cricket, for whatever reason, the number 111 — a Nelson, they call it — is considered ominous.
And, for whatever reason, the best way to fight off this bad luck is to hop around on one leg.
The NHL lockout is on its 111th day and hopping around on one leg is about the most useful thing any of us can do.
The moves made by the league and union this week — the offers, the counters, responses to the counter-offers — are all leading up to a conclusion that seems inevitable: a 48-game season starting on or around January 19.
Even yesterday's disappointing development — the players saying that the league started playing hardball once the artificial disclaimer deadline passed — really didn't put anybody off.
No, this is just the painful part. The last climb up the hill. The end is near and in these negotiations, there's always one charged-up dust-up just before it's all concluded.
And it will be. It will be soon.
Meantime, America's teenagers are better than Canada's at hockey. And Predators prospect and Harvard man Jimmy Vesey is having a heckuva tournament. So hold on to that, hop on one leg and give these clowns one more week. It'll all be over soon.
I promise the cricket references will (mostly) stop when hockey comes back. And without hockey, I'm gonna be at a loss for content. It's all college hoops until baseball starts. Unless you have tips. Send tips! jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And I'm back on the radio Tuesday from 6-7 PM on 102.5 with Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland. Listen! We'll talk about something.