by J.R. Lind
This Week, The 'Drome's Shaking Off Cobwebs
Civic Legacies vs. Personal Legacies: This week in the dead-tree, I write about the potential new Sounds stadium (which will almost certainly look old).
In a vacuum, the idea of building Greer's replacement in Sulphur Dell is delightful. The city turns a massive parking lot into a shining civic structure that celebrates the past and replaces a relic that hardly deserves that name. Given what architectural firms have been able to do with the speculated budget (around $40 million), the stadium could be a showpiece.
That said, nothing except the space station is built in a vacuum.
The very practical how-do-we-pay-for-it question has yet to be answered, with the mayor's office saying they aren't ready to share it, though if they truly have been talking about a Sulphur Dell site since Opening Day in April, there's reason to believe they have a pretty good idea of the funding mechanism. All anyone is saying is that the Sounds will make a significant contribution (what that means is, naturally, left vague) with the balance to be paid by...taxpayers? Local businesses in the form of some kind of fee? A TIF? We don't know.
Generally, the idea of putting sports facilities in places where people either will go if they have a reason or already go is a good idea. The business owners on Lower Broadway are more than happy to tell you how much more robust their revenues are on nights when the Predators are at the arena. Putting the stadium on Jackson Avenue builds a bit of a bridge to Germantown with its restaurants and so forth. But Germantown is a residential area in a way downtown is not. Injecting 17,000 people into the entertainment district of Lower Broad 41 nights a year is one thing. Injecting 8,400 into a largely residential area 70-some-odd times a summer is a whole 'nother can of bananas.
Philosophically, one wonders when all the Nexting stops. Less than a week after news of the ballpark leaked, Mayor Karl Dean announced plans for further riverfront development. There was no breather, no delay. There's an $80 million Sulphur Dell project and a $30 or $40 million project on the river. How many things does downtown need? When will downtown stop needing new things?
And how are we paying for this?
The Week Behind
Hot August Night: Teams like Vanderbilt and Ole Miss — programs that play in the SEC but hardly command the attention of Alabama or LSU and have no Johnnies Football between them — are happy to draw the Thursday night games, especially when they can open the season.
And perhaps 8:30 is too late to start a midweek game and it would have been easy to shut it off had last night's game been a standard 24-10 game. Pack up the babies, grab the old ladies, catch the highlights in the morning.
But Vandy and Ole Miss had no intention of letting us off the hook that easy — and they rarely do.
The 'Dores started slowly — quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels had no rhythm and All-SEC wide receiver Jordan Matthews was a non-factor. Ole Miss leaped to a 10-0 lead and murmurs of Have Fun, Expect To Win left vapor trails through the muggy Nashville night.
The second quarter was a totally different animal. It looked like the hammer that would finally, mercifully put the nail in the Same Old Vandy coffin. The 'Dores scored on three straight possessions, including two long and efficient drives. In the sopping, soaked hot blanket that hung over Dudley Field, the Rebels defense was gasping and gassed, sucking in the saturated air and receiving no succor. With a 21-10 lead and three minutes remaining in the first half, Vandy was, perhaps, one score from making the remainder of the game a non-issue.
But Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace — the Ole Missest man with the Ole Missest name on a team of very Ole Missish men with Ole Missish names — is a smart operator. He connected repeatedly with Laquan Treadwell — who used Thursday night as a coming out party much as did Vandy's Matthews — and he ran effectively, scooting and darting past a Vandy front four which looked like the rudest dudes in school in the first half and found themselves flummoxed by Wallace's feathered locks and fleet feet in the second. Suddenly 21-10 Vandy was 32-28 Ole Miss. Nine minutes to play.
And behind four points came what easily would have been the series of the night. Matthews, hung out to dry like yesterday's socks, smacked over the middle, hit in the mid-section — and depending on one's view, his head smacking the turf. He vomited — a concerning sight and an interesting one. Occam's razor says the emesis was a byproduct of the extra fluids Matthews had been consuming and a shot to the gut, but given the concern about concussions, erring on caution's side seemed advisable. He was woozy — was his wind knocked out or did his noggin get knocked? Or both? Matthews stayed in the game, watching an ineffective running play, then heading to the sideline where he was checked out, though not enough time passed to fully execute the entire concussion protocol (which, it should be noted, is left entirely to each school as the NCAA refuses, with their standard lack of courage, to establish a universal protocol). He returned, converting fourth-and-Bellevue with a 42 yard reception that outshone even his brilliant 55-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Vandy would score, a 34-yard pass to Steven Scheu to take a 35-32 lead.
In olden days, Vandy fans would watch the last 90 seconds of the game through a lace of fingers — having seen improbable wins turn into losses equal part predictable and unlikely. But these are different days on West End and instead the jubilant crowd was Anchoring Down and Who Ya Withing as the clock ticked toward (literal) midnight.
But at midnight, the carriage turns into a pumpkin. Ole Miss' John Scott dashed and cut for a 75 yard touchdown which proved the winner when Matthews couldn't snag his 11th pass of the night and Carta-Samuels was intercepted, feebly, to end the game.
With Ole Miss 39-35 win, the SEC's longest winning streak (really) came to an end. Vandy fell to 0-1 as they have so many other times. But it was promising still. And, importantly, Same Old Vandy rearing its grotesque, anachronistic visage seemed surprising and not de rigueur.
Over at The Tennessean, David Climer posits that a win would have helped Vandy "bury" the "distractions" of the summer. Those distractions, by the way, are that a number of Vanderbilt players are charged in connection with the gang-rape of an unconscious woman. But, yes, David, it's important the football team be able to move on.
Pleasant Surprise: Sure, it was preseason, but the Titans looked better in their 27-16 win over Atlanta than they have in a long time.
Jake Locker was precise through the air (and showed a little gumption with his feet), Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene were effective on the ground, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a fine beard.
Jurrell Casey was menacing defensively. The defensive backfield didn't totally implode. Rob Bironas kicked field goals.
Caveats, naturally. The Falcons played two rookie cornerbacks for the most important parts of the game and Locker and Fitzpatrick picked them apart. The Titans likely won't have the virtue of playing such a young defensive back corps in games that actually matter. The Falcons, obviously, played with a scaled-down playbook — their team is more or less set in a way the Titans' was not.
In last night's final, extra-meaningless game against Minnesota, the most notable thing was that Kerry Collins replaced Keith Bulluck in the booth...you know, just because.
Garbage Time: No problems for MTSU in their opener in the 'Boro against Directional Carolina from the western part of that state. And, of course, Marine Steven Rhodes had a sack and a big kickoff coverage tackle to boot. Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore was injured. ... Belmont's basketball schedule is brutal. ... Boclair wonders if high-school superstar Jalen Hurd's shoulder surgery was a bit of a work. ... The Sounds' Johnny Hellweg was named the PCL's Pitcher of the Year, a rare bright spot in an abysmal year on Chestnut Hill.
Two Sport Star: David Price, uh, had interesting attire for a bullpen session:
Every Birthday Hustlin': Nate Washington's having a birthday. The host will be waiting in Room 222.
Tickets Please: Let's play a game — which Titans game will still have tickets on sale the morning of the game? According to a report from Kuharsky, there's plenty of seats available for most of the slate.
The Week Ahead
They've All Come To Look For America: The Preds offseason moves into its final phase as the rookies report for camp next week. Thence to actual training camp, preseason and back on the ice in early October for games that matter.
Of course, Seth Jones will be the bright star in rookie camp, coming off an invite to the US Olympic Team orientation — where he roomed with Ryan Suter, which is either hilarious or terrifying depending on how paranoid you are — but eyes will be on Filip Forsberg, the return in the Martin Erat trade, who showed great promise in the few games he got with Nashville after the trade deadline.
Scheduling Quirk: Both Vandy and the Titans play next week...but on the weekend. Full blow-out previews in next Friday's 'Drome.
Change Is Gonna Happen: After picking up his second 15-yard personal foul penalty of the preseason — and neither of them were borderline — newly-acquired Titans safety Bernard Pollard said he isn't going to change the way he plays:
“I can’t change the way I play football. These guys have never played, and they don’t understand how fast this game is. We’ve got a split second to make a decision, as far as how we’re making that tackle. I hit him in the shoulder pad and I barely grazed that.”
I wouldn't categorize the hit as a "graze," but I never played either, so what do I know?
Anyway, Mike Munchak wants Pollard to "play smarter," presumably because if he had to choose, he'd rather his defensive backs continue their practice of giving up yardage the traditional way (weak coverage, bad tackling, and so forth) than via penalty.
But Pollard. He "can't change."
Fact is, he needs to either change or get out. The NFL is changing, whether Pollard likes it or not, whether he or you or anybody agrees with it or not.
A league that just signed a nine-figure settlement with concussed players isn't going to ease up on its late hit and tackles-to-the-head rules because Bernard Pollard said he isn't changing the way he plays.
So Pollard has a choice: continue to play with the reckless abandon the NFL has made a concerted effort to outlaw and continue to give up 15-yard penalties OR play within the rules as they are currently defined.
The first way will have him out of a job. The second might extend his career (in more ways than one).
Emails to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Daily work at Post Sports. Radio Tuesdays at 6PM on 102.5.