The Hippodrome: The Quarterback Battle Heats Up To Tepid



This Week In The 'Drome: Bland wars, Greatlettsville, Vandy goes viral again, and more ....

So many pretty much identical choices!
  • So many pretty much identical choices!

Opening Face-Off

Purified Water vs Spring Water : Saw a story this week that Maynardville's water was voted the best in the state.

Congratulations to the good folks there, who haven't had much to cheer about since Aldo Raine killed Hitler. Having worked in small-town news, I'm familiar with this annual contest — Lebanon was a dominant force in the regional competitions — but I always wondered how anybody can discern a difference from one town's water to the other. Sure, there is truly foul H2O from time to time — usually coupled with algae blooms — but by and large, water from the tap is water from the tap.

It's all pretty much the same and it's all pretty boring.

That bring us to the topic in this week's dead-tree: our local pigskin version of the tapwater challenge, the Titans' snoozy quarterback question.

In days past, battle lines were drawn in this city when the Two Toners had to pick a man under center. Radio-talk discussions of the relative merits of McNair, O'Donnell, Volek, Collins and Young turned vitriolic regularly. If the first or last names on that list were involved, there were more code words than a Tom Clancy novel and more dog-whistles than a PetSmart.

It's not that Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker aren't good quarterbacks — both are, in fact, quite good. It's that they are so similar and they are so dang nice. They aren't calling each other out. Heck, Hasselbeck says all the time he hopes Locker becomes a starter one day and if that day is this year, well, he's just fine with it.

It's not exactly the slobberknocker, lines-in-the-sand, cliques-in-the-locker-room mano á mano quarterback quandary we're used to.

This is a dire conflict ripped straight from a P.G. Wodehouse novel. "Oh, good on you, chap!" "And a fine throw of the prolate spheroid by you, good sir!"

Give me a break. Get mad, fellas! Make people pick sides! Right now, all we're doing is discussing when it will be OK for Locker to come into the game. That's got all the high-stakes drama of deciding whether to eat dinner at 6 or 6:15.

The NFL's preseason is a money-grubbing four-week bore. Jake and Matt need to spice it up.

The Week Behind

Ratings were good in Seattle
  • Ratings were good in Seattle

Sleepy in Seattle : When the star of your game is the fourth-string tailback/back-up punt returner, you know two things.

First, that it's the preseason. Secondly, that things didn't go as well as expected.

But, hey, great job by Darius Reynaud, scoring the Titans' only two touchdowns in Saturday's 27-17 loss to the Seahawks. He will inevitably be cut and end up setting rookie records somewhere like Tampa.

This was, of course, pre-season, so not much can be placed on Chris Johnson's five carries for eight yards or his two dropped passes. And the near-even split between Hasselbeck and Locker did little to separate one from the other in the race for the top of the depth chart, although Hasselbeck's interceptions were troubling.

But, hey, it's the pre-season, so A) who cares? and 2) it'll get better. Probably.

Cap And Trade : There was cause for optimism when the NHLPA tabled its initial proposal for a new collective-bargaining agreement this week, a proposal NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman initially characterized as "intriguing."

Then there was cause for pessimism the day after when the Vladimir Putin lookalike declared the two sides were still miles apart and that the players' proposal didn't adequately address management concerns — like, how management can control itself by not giving out eight-decade long, 15-figure contracts. Please, players, protect them from themselves as they hand you checks with more zeroes than a Maury Povich episode.

Anyway, here's a 2,000-word rundown on where the two sides stand. Everyone is still at the negotiating table, so it's not quite panic time yet. But with less than a month until training camps are set to open, it's getting close.

Garbage Time: The Titans signed a couple of offensive linemen this week, including a guy who played high school ball in Mt. Juliet. ... The TSSAA made few changes to its championship sites. ... R.A. Dickey didn't pick up his 16th win Wednesday, probably because those meanie umps made him take off his friendship bracelets. ... Looks like the Predators will need a new air travel provider. ... The Predators set the schedule for their annual Skate of the Union town hall. Shea Weber a notable omission from the scheduled-to-appear list, but apparently he has a commitment to a hockey school and with the players' union.

Halftime Entertainment

Just dont re-create this. You guys dont have the depth yet.
  • Just don't re-create this. You guys don't have the depth yet.

Viral Vandy : For the second time in as many weeks, a video from Vandy's summer football practices went viral.

While this one is not nearly as hysterical as Herb Hand doing the worm, the clip of walk-on Marc Panu getting a scholarship serves the same purpose.

These videos are a very calculated, very clever way to get a certain image of Vanderbilt athletics into the zeitgeist. Vanderbilt has an academic reputation that's stellar. There's no need to sell that. But Vandy, needless to say, doesn't have a winning reputation on the gridiron and inertia is a powerful force.

With these videos, which become online sensations and then get replayed on SportsCenter, James Franklin is associating the Vandy name with fun (in the Hand video) and with opportunity (with Panu's). Now people are talking about the Commodore team for something other than a history of futility.

When Slogans Go Wrong : Vandy and I have come to a detente in our dispute about the illogical "Anchor Down" slogan, though I didn't appreciate them erecting a billboard with the nonsense phrase so close to my house.

Meanwhile, MTSU, in an effort to sell-out Floyd Stadium — on the same night Vandy opens in an intriguing match-up with South Carolina, so this seems a little bit speculative — seems to have tied itself to the slogan "Bolt Up."

While "Anchor Down" means the opposite of what Vandy wants it to mean, at least it means something. "Bolt Up"? That's just two words stuck together like the last two seniors without a prom date.

Vincent's Price : Oh, Vince. Can they fit the word "Schadenfreude" on the back of a Bills' jersey? The Titans' erstwhile quarterback is being sued for $1.7 million for non-payment of what is essentially a payday loan. That's a lot of sausages.

The Week Ahead

James Denton: Also from Goodlettsville
  • James Denton: Also from Goodlettsville

Oh So Good : With a 1-0 win, scoring on a wild pitch in the second inning, Goodlettsville beat homestanding Warner Robins in the Southeast Regional, advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. They are the first midstate team to make it to the Big Show since the Optimist Little League, playing out of Shelby Park, did it in 1970.

After a week off, Goodlettsville opened play against Midwest champ Kearney, Neb. — which I'm fairly certain was a stop on the Oregon Trail (in real life and the computer game) — in Thursday night's prime-time game on ESPN.

The guys we're calling Greatlettsville shucked the Nebraskans so comprehensively ESPN resorted to multiple shots of the praying mantises hanging around the filed. After hitting four home runs and allowing just one hit in their 12-1 victory, they'll play in a winners' bracket match-up on ABC Sunday against West region champion Petaluma, Calif.

Worthless Prediction: It's always best to avoid the Northeastern and California teams for as long as possible in the LLWS, but to be the best, you got to beat the best. And if Goodlettsville can put it all together like they did Thursday, they'll be tough to stop.

Seize The Day : The second Sunday of Advent is the most boring of all the Sundays of Advent.

The first Sunday? Oh, cool, it's Advent! Is Christmas soon? Yes.

The third? The vestments are a different color. So is the candle. It's all about joy! (Helping in this metaphor: the third pre-season game is also the best one.)

And the fourth Sunday? A few days 'til Christmas, just one more reading from Isaiah, and we're good to go for presents and eggnog.

But that second Sunday? It's a real yawner. Just like the second pre-season game (and you guys didn't think I could pull this off).

The big news is that Mike Munchak decided he'd give Jake Locker the start and plenty of looks in the first half against Tampa Bay tonight. And if Locker plays well? "Then" could be "now" much sooner than we thought.

Worthless Prediction : Locker plays well and that third pre-season game — the first one at the renovated LP Field — really is a time for joy. Maybe we'll even know the Week One starter soon. Also, C.J. bounces back — and gets more than eight chances to prove it.


What are we? Communists?
  • What are we? Communists?

Suffer The Little People : Every day without a new CBA increases the very real possibility that the NHL season will be shortened by a lockout.

As with most anything, money is a big motivator. Given the league's big newish TV deal with NBC, it's unlikely there will be a repeat of 2004-05, when a full season of hockey melted away.

In fact, we can probably put a date certain after which the league will return: New Year's Day. The NHL rings in the new year these days with its outdoor Winter Classic. This year, it's in ginormofield Michigan Stadium and features two of the league's most storied (and well-followed) franchises in Detroit and Toronto. There's lots of money to be made, and the owners won't pass that up — much like the NBA's willingness to let its lockout extend to Christmas last year but no longer, for Christmas is when the Association starts to make money.

Let's assume the not-quite-the-worst then: There is a lockout, and some — but not all — of the season is lost.

Presumably, season-ticket holders would see their ticket payments slashed in that case. The team isn't going to charge as much for 25 home games as they planned to for 41.

But what of money already paid?

And what of the folks who pay for their tickets with the Preds' monthly payment plan — an option utilized by a number of budget-conscious hockey fans?

When the NFL locked its players out last year, the Titans said even if games were cancelled, PSL holders would not be entitled to interest for ticket money already paid. The team cited PSL contracts, which prohibit such payments.

The Preds do not have PSLs — in fact, the team's lease with the city explicitly bans PSLs at the arena — so they will be unable to fall back on that argument.

But the Preds are also an organization that can use all the money they can get. It will be interesting to see how they handle moneys already rendered and money they are scheduled to get if, indeed, the league — read: the owners — goes through with another work stoppage.

Pro-sports labor disputes are framed as management-versus-players, with coverage usually paying little more than lip service to the concerns of the fans, who simply want everyone to get along and get games going again. Hockey lost a full season — the only professional league to do so — and still people came back to the game.

And they'll do it again.

But what thanks will the fans get? A refund for unplayed games, sure, but isn't a lagniappe due for the people who fill arenas three times a week? Something more than a sign in a lobby thanking people for coming back?

When mommy and daddy fight, it's always the kids who suffer.

Hit your friendly Dromemaster with a note at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And remember to listen Tuesdays at 6 when I join Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland for the final hour of Sports Night on 102.5 FM. Also, Best of Nashville voting opened this week. The sports-related categories in the Readers' Choice competitions are in the Media/Politics and People/Places/Other sections

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