by J.R. Lind
This week in The 'Drome: Vandy goes bowling, Titans keep yo-yoing, bras on Broadway, and Philly Dub does a tête-à-tête with some bloggers...
Phil Williams vs Bloggers Row: The way WTVF investigative reporter Phil Williams has been all over the Predators in recent weeks, one would think Gnash was checking his mail in a bathrobe.
Williams reports the team is getting sales tax money diverted to offset the cost of securing non-hockey events. Essentially, the Powers Management, the team's arena management arm, gets 2/3 of 1/2 (that's 1/3, math majors) of the local, non-schools portion of the sales tax collected at non-hockey events. (Go read TCA 67-6-712(c) for some thrilling uses of "notwithstanding.")
Williams also reported (if you are squeamish, stop reading now) powerful lobbyist James "The Dream" Weaver was responsible for getting this law passed in the totally normal fashion by which laws are passed. There's also the matter of the jock tax, which is cool in that it makes Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski mad as hell.
Here's a question for the ages: Why doesn't the jock tax apply to NFLers?
In any event, Williams' minor tones sent Predator-centric bloggers into a tizzy, spawning a post from blogger and MTSU con-law prof (and Canadian) Amanda DiPaolo, which in turn spawned this from Williams. Which in turn spawned this from certified role-model Patten Fuqua and this from Mark Willoughby.
Nothing says hockey like the semantics of the tax code.
Worth noting: The Predators incentive package with the city can be quashed, but only if action is taken by year's end — the Sports Authority agenda for next Tuesday's meeting has "incentive renewal deadline" as an item, although the Dec. 31 deadline is for not renewing the incentives — it's an opt-out, not an opt-back-in. In Williams' report, neither Mayor Dean and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rich Riebeling said they were aware of the state deal. In any event, the legislation passed some two years after the Predators' current incentives with the city went into place (and so far as we know, neither Dean nor Riebeling is psychic).
The Week Behind
We Can Go Bowling, It Ain't Like Before. Can't Y'all See That I'm Growing?: In this week's dead-tree Scene Sports column, I, unlike Wake Forest, tackle Vandy, culture change and the miraculous run to .500 and a bowl game for a 'Dores team predicted, as always, as an SEC afterthought.
In the end, the bowl-clinching win against the Fightin' Oxymorons was devoid of much drama — more a satisfying post-prandial cognac than the blinding, chest-burning bathtub gin that has been the potent potable metaphor of most crucial Commodore games in years past.
The Waxing in Winston Salem inspired an impromptu welcome back at Vanderbilt's McGugin Center and a late-night tooting of the ship horn at Dudley Field. Chancellor Nick Zeppos, in his barely restrained excitement, revealed that the school would work on a raise and extension for first-year coach James Franklin. Reportedly, the deal includes a promise of upgrades and an indoor practice facility.
But that's all for the future. For now, Vandy fans can start making plans for New Years in Memphis. Barring a Georgia upset of LSU in Saturday's SEC Championship, a short trip down I-40 is all but finalized.
y = a * sin(bx - c): The Titans don't alternate winning and losing every week, it just seems like they do (although the rhythm has been perfectly sinusoid since the bye week). Thus it was not much of a surprise when they gutted out a win against Tampa Bay 23-17 on a late touchdown pass to Damian Williams.
Not that this game between two teams seemingly predestined for 8-8 lacked its charm. Center Eugene Amano caught a six-yard pass. Rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy continued to look the answer in the middle of the front seven. Chris Johnson finally, miraculously broke out, going for 190.
The best news of the week for the upgraded-from-critical-condition playoff hopes for the Titans came out of Houston. Stopgap quarterback Matt Leinart exuded so much broness, he broke his collarbone, forcing
T.D. Jakes T.J. Yates into action for the Texans. Still at the top of the compost pile that is the AFC South, Houston signed Jake Delhomme to back-up T.J. Hooker Yates. The Houston mess breathes new life into the Titans, the only other corpse in the division worthy of re-animation.
I Predict A Riot: The Predators went into Vancouver looking for something, anything to take away as a positive from what was basically a Griswold-level fail of a road trip to Western Canada via Minnesota — where they lost 3-2 — and Detroit, a 4-1 stinker of a game against the Auld Enemy.
Heading into Rogers Arena, Nashville had won just one game on the trip — a 2-1 squeaker against the Edmonton Oilers, followed by the de rigueur 1-0 loss to Calgary on a Tuesday in November.
Early on against the 'Nucks — the British Columbian dream team which knocked the Preds from the playoffs last year — it seemed the Preds had found a spark. Perhaps it was Barry Trotz's strong words, and the team jumped out to a 3-1 lead, chasing starting goalie Cory Schneider, which should, no doubt, lead to a lot of "hang up and listen" chatter on the local sports talk today. The Canucks responded, putting four goals past the Predators own $7 million man Pekka Rinne, building a 5-3 lead and chasing the Finn.
Things didn't look good for the visitors down 5-3. The Preds, after all, had only managed five goals total in its previous four and only one win in its previous six. But they bounced back, tying the game going into the third. And after 40 minutes with 10 total goals, the game settled into a defensive battle — which, in context, was as incongruous as John Rich at a drag show.
The goalies — mostly Lindback, the Canucks establishing residency like out-of-towners trying to take over the school board — kept the score knotted at five, until, inexplicably, Marty Erat fed Mike Fisher with 1:16 left and Fisher tapped one by Luongo.
All told, the road trip was a bit of a downer, with just four points of a possible 10 — and Trotz acknowledged the team got away with one in Vancouver where they were absolutely outplayed— but maybe the comeback is the spark the mostly moribund Preds need.
Garbage Time: Boy, does Vandy need Festus Ezeli back. The 'Dores fell apart late against Xavier at Memorial Gym and got run roughshod in overtime, losing for the second time this season at the West End Puzzlebox. The 'Dores travel to Louisville for another inter-conference battle tonight. ... Area teams Maplewood and Friendship Christian will play for their respective divisional state titles in football in Cookeville tomorrow night. Ensworth TKed the large private school title yesterday. ... Looks like the new Sounds stadium will be on the East Bank, at Sulphur Dell or in the north Gulch, which is what we're calling where the temporary Greyhound station is, apparently. ... Vandy's women upset Oklahoma and stayed undefeated with a win against Austin Peay, solidifying the Lady 'Dores Top 25 position. ... Former punter Craig Hentrich is taking a worker's comp dispute with the Titans to court.
Are You The Next Bare Bryant?: Nearly a year ago, Tracy Moore wrote on the Lingerie Football League's potential, um, expansion into Nashville. The comment thread is worth reading for lots of reasons, one being that Tracy and some guy from some band I've never heard of (because they neither pretend to be English nor were on Victory 10 years ago) get in an argument that somehow involves Husker Du. In any event, the team, which doesn't actually exist best we can tell, is called the Nashville Stars (apparently) and is looking for a coach. The post is a little sketchy on the requirements, except they'd prefer an ex-NFL player. Interesting to note that the Stars' company profile page on Startuply lists the address as 501 Broadway, which indicates the team is playing at Bridgestone Arena (or, I suppose, the Register of Deeds office). Arena officials tell The 'Drome — well, let's say they said it is not happening.
You're The Star of The Masquerade: Despite the overall disappoint of the road trip, Jordin Tootoo managed to have two video-worthy moments. First, against Edmonton he really sold this push (he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for "embellishment," what most people call "diving"). The next night his nose started gushing blood during an intermission interview in Calgary.
Come For the Fetish Suits, Stay For the Nudity: The Vancouver Green Men have inspired many imitators (they themselves are ripping off schtick from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia) and it's a trend that's pretty well played out. But the duo got Shea Weber pretty good.
The Week Ahead
Ever heard of Cadillac, Cadillac Eldorado? That's what I drive. I drive cars that shift themselves: The Titans go on the road to Buffalo Sunday with a chance to put a winning streak together. The Bills had a hot start but have chilled off as the winds of November came blowing — running back Fred Jackson is out for the year, which isn't good news for the Bills as a cold-weather, outdoor team which traditionally relies on the running game once the weather shifts from Gondor to Mordor in upstate New York. Two games back of the division leading but reeling Texans, a late-season surge may have the Titans inexplicably in the playoffs.
Worthless Prediction: It'll be really cold. Titans 24, Bills 6
If There's An Audience To Be Found, They'll Be Streaking Around: One of the cornerstones of last year's Predators was the ability to burn off a skid with a solid winning streak. After the recent run of bad form, the home team could use a quick six points this week. It's doable with tough but winnable games at home against Buffalo tomorrow and the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday, followed by a quick trip to Columbus Thursday.
Worthless Prediction: Oh, why not? Take all three. Surely, they aren't going to lose to Columbus twice in a row. Right?
Ties Bow, Eats Crow Back when Vandy hired Franklin nearly a year ago, I described the hire as "a punt." I said it had a sense of "overwhelming underwhelmingness." I cracked wise that Franklin was far less well-known than the name's-the-same cricketer from New Zealand, a man who isn't even my favorite cricketing Kiwi (because you don't care: Daniel Vettori takes that honor).
I called a 2-10 season on West End "inevitable."
I was wrong. I was way, way wrong.
I was reactionary and judgmental about a man of whom I knew little. In my defense, Franklin being an unknown quantity was sort of the point of my criticism. But still, I was quick on the trigger.
After three decades of swinging and mostly missing, Vandy got this one right. Never did I think I'd see the days where Vandy's coach would have the 'Dores in the mix on top recruits while, at the same time, UT's coach looks like he's the last sober member of the White family, reaching for the Black Label as the rest of the operation swirls towards chaos, the world voyeuristically waiting for everything to collapse.
Franklin didn't just right the ship — a task which would have been substantial, even Sisyphean. He's steered a whole new course. He isn't to the New World yet and there are many steps left on this journey. Yes, competitive facilities to ink those recruits being wooed. Convincing alums — genuine and sidewalk alike — that the culture has changed enough to merit a trip to Vanderbilt Stadium, elevating it from its current status as steel monument to apathy. Convincing the same to write the big booster checks that are the morally ambiguous lifeblood of the billion-dollar sideshow that is major college athletics.
That ship hasn't made landfall yet. The Promised Land isn't even in sight yet, not really. But, finally, the bowsprit is pointed the right way.
Rants, raves, tips or tricks for The 'Drome? Shoot 'em to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.