Archive for December, 2009

Meyer can change mind but he can’t undo damage at Florida

Urban Meyer ran Florida's practice Monday. Don't get used to this picture.

Urban Meyer ran Florida's practice Monday. Don't get used to this picture.

(Folks. If some of this looks familiar, it’s because it is an expanded version of the early morning blog on Urban Meyer, rewritten for print purposes. It made more sense to post it as a new blog than replace the old one. Thanks.)

He has had chest pains for four years. He has headaches that Advil can’t fix. He has a cyst on his brain that becomes inflamed every time he’s under significant stress, which for an SEC coach begins at breakfast, assuming you have breakfast. He recently suffered from such dehydration and dizziness following the SEC championship game that he fainted.

Urban Meyer was thinking clearly when he announced he was stepping away from coaching. Now he’s not thinking at all. He may be the best coach in college football today, but he just committed the cardinal sin of his profession: He made a decision based solely on emotion.

Since Meyer pulled a 180, kinda, sorta, about his future, …

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Even Independence Bowl can tell us something about Georgia

Mark Richt entertained the horde of media (slight exaggeration) in Shreveport this week.

Mark Richt entertained the horde of media (slight exaggeration) in Shreveport this week.

Let’s start with two facts. 1) Seven SEC teams landed in better bowl games than Georgia: Alabama (BCS), Florida (Sugar), LSU (Capital One), Mississippi (Cotton), Tennessee (Chick-fil-A), Auburn (Outback), Kentucky (Music City); 2) Only 6,800 of the Bulldogs’ 12,000-ticket allotment to the Independence Bowl was sold, which of course leads to the obvious question: How did they find 6,800 people to go to Shreveport?

So it’s safe to assume that most of you are not thrilled with the fact that the final memory of the 2009 season will be the Dec. 28, 5 p.m. time slot tonight on ESPN 2. (Programming note: The Independence Bowl follows the Premier League soccer game between Wolverhampton and Manchester City.)

But I’m here to tell you that tonight’s game does mean something for Georgia’s season. Besides, it’s worth watching if for no other reason than more updates from the minds of Urban Meyer.

This …

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Meyer’s flip-flop is bad sign for Florida, opening for Georgia

There's no telling what voice Urban Meyer was listening to when he de-boarded a plane in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

There's no telling what voice Urban Meyer was listening to when he de-boarded a plane in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

I’ve been gone for a week. Thank you for taking in my mail. But who left Melky Cabrera on my doorstep?

There was no shortage of strange developments locally after I went underground (Javier Vazquez went where for whom?). But with college bowls underway and  Georgia closing out its season tonight in the Independence Bowl, let’s stay with what’s timely.

Florida just got vulnerable.

If Urban Meyer was a player — effectively flip-flopping on a retirement decision — many of us would be second-guessing his level of motivation and commitment for next season. Committed people don’t make emotional decisions. Committed people are driven 24/7 and don’t flip-flop. That’s one thing that makes Meyer a great head coach, much like the guy he lost to (Nick Saban) in the SEC championship game.

No, Meyer isn’t a player. He’s a head coach. That makes what just happened …

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Happy holidays to all, and to all a good … rest

closed-for-holiday

Saw a guy in LaGuardia Airport at 4 a.m. Monday. He looked like he had combed his hair with a blender. Turns out he was from Sweden and had just taken a bus from JFK, where another of his intended connecting flights had been canceled. He told me he had been up for 38 hours. So we’re standing in the security line and he gets to the front and the ticket-checker security dude tells my tired Swedish friend, “This is just your itinerary. Where’s the boarding pass?” So he has to get out of line and go back to the ticket counter to get a boarding pass.

I’m taking a few days off, heading to the other coast, where it’s very easy to lose touch with the rest of the world. But if news breaks while I’m gone that a mad Swede suddenly went postal at the Nathan’s Hot Dog kiosk at LaGuardia and nobody could figure out why, well, I thought you should know.

Here’s hoping everybody has a great holiday season. I won’t be gone long. Should be back in plenty of time to watch the …

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Ryan shows rust in return but leads victory in the end

Matt Ryan completed only 16 of 34 passes for 152 yards in his return, but went 6 for 9 in the Falcons' winning drive. (AP photo)

Matt Ryan completed only 16 of 34 passes for 152 yards in his return, but went 6 for 9 in the Falcons' winning drive. (AP photo)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After a week punctuated by more news of players and their mind-altering substances, the forecast of a blizzard for their upcoming road trip and then life-support finally being pulled on their playoff hopes, the Falcons didn’t project for a real uplifting finish to this season.

Fortunately, they had two things going for them Sunday: 1) They were playing the New York Jets, opponent of opportunity (they botched three field goals); 2) Matt Ryan kind of has something to prove.

Ryan was not good for most of Sunday. One reason was the wind, which often turned passes into knuckleballs. The other reason was nearly three weeks of inactivity, which helped turn an already struggling quarterback into a pedestrian one. (Ryan’s numbers before the Falcons’ final possession: 10 for 25, 115 yards.)

But you can tell a lot about a guy by …

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We’re live (and alive) from Falcons-Jets game

Don't you wish you could tailgate in New Jersey? Yeesh.

Don't you wish you could tailgate in New Jersey? Yeesh.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J — Before we get to today’s Falcons’ game, I have two important travel updates:

1.) Our beat guy, Darryl Ledbetter,  rolled into Manhattan at 2:53 a.m. I know this because he sent me a very excited text message, which of course I ignored until about 8:30. For those who missed our travel experiences, and if you want to know how D-Led blew it by not following my lead, click here.

parkinglot2.) We STILL almost didn’t make it the game. Our taxi from the hotel did I nice little swerve and side slide on the New Jersey Turnpike after the doofus driving the Lexus in front of us lost control because he was driving too fast, spun out and kissed the wall. Our driver apologized for startling us. Apologize? For what? He just gave me a blog lead. Of course, now Ledbetter is screaming at me for not taking a picture of the Lexus.

Anyway, I can now say I’ve experienced stadiumeverything. Having a cab driver from Brooklyn apologize …

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Live from New York! (11 hours, 29 minutes, 1 bad burrito later)

Team AJC was delayed slightly en route to the Falcons-Jets game. That's me on the left and Darryl Ledbetter on the right, starring in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part II."
Team AJC was delayed en route to the Falcons game. That’s me on the left and Darryl Ledbetter on the right, starring in “Planes, Trains, Automobiles.”

(UPDATE BELOW)

Don’t do as much travel as I used to. Remembered why I don’t miss it a lot when I received an automated phone call Friday night from Delta saying my scheduled leisurely Saturday afternoon flight to New York had been canceled and replaced by a cartoonish Sunday itinerary that had me routed through Columbus, Ohio on something called Chautauqua Airlines, which Delta happily reported would still get me into LaGuardia at 2:02 p.m., assuming Chautauqua didn’t first have to circle back and fulfill its other obligation of dusting crops just outside of Springfield. The 2:02 Sunday arrival would’ve been just fine if the NFL hadn’t scheduled the Falcons-New York Jets game for a 1 p.m. kickoff in East Rutherford, N.J., or if commissioner Roger Goodell had the common decency to phone me and offer the use of his private …

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Ominous signs in Thrashers-Kovalchuk negotiations

Ilya Kovalchuk, seated between his wife, Nicole, and teammate Nik Antropov, seems no closer to signing now than before the season.

Ilya Kovalchuk, seated between his wife, Nicole, and teammate Nik Antropov, seems no closer to signing now than before the season.

A few days before the Thrashers opened this season, general manager Don Waddell expressed great optimism about his chances of signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a contract extension. He punctuated his remarks with, “I don’t think we’ll be talking about this at Christmas time.”

A week before Christmas, Waddell continues to express great optimism. About that Christmas quote?

“I never said what year,” he said.

Funny man.

I’m guessing funny man is funny in public but he’s getting a little nervous out of public view. There was a report this week in a Russian sports newspaper that negotiations between the Thrashers and Kovalchuk now are at an impasse, that he asked for a 10-year contract at the maximum salary allowed by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement (20 percent of the salary cap, the equivalent of $11.3 million per season) and the team …

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Are SEC rivals turning Tennessee, Kiffin in to NCAA?

Here's Lane Kiffin doing interviews Thursday. This seldom turns out well.

Here's Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin doing interviews Thursday. This seldom turns out well.

Sitting on stage, unaccompanied by blonde recruiting hostesses (good news) but still clearly devoid of a filter between his brain and mouth (oops), Lane Kiffin listened as somebody asked what he considered the toughest thing about coaching college football today.

“Following all the rules,” he said. And the room, free of NCAA investigators, broke into laughter.

I’ll say this for Kiffin: Most folks who devolve into a human punch line every 17 minutes eventually learn their lesson and know when to hit the mental mute button. Kiffin soaks it all in and wears the target proudly, like a new tan. There’s something to be said for consistency.

“I thought you guys were getting bored out there,” he said later about the rules comment. “We were answering every question politically correct, so I thought I’d give you something.”

Kiffin coaches Tennessee, at least when he’s not …

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Is Kiffin’s fan base at Tennessee eroding? (I hope not)

Here's Lane Kiffin getting ready to speak. That's Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, looking nervous.

Lane Kiffin gets ready to speak. Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton looks nervous.

After over 28 years in this business, I can safely say the two questions I’m asked most often are: 1.) Come on, who do you root for? I know you root for someone, because it’s clear you hate my team and my school and my coach, and by the way you’re bald and ugly; 2) Can I have your job? I know I can do it better than you, because you hate my team and my school and my coach, and by the way you’re bald and ugly.

And I always answer the same way: No, you can’t have my job. No, I don’t hate your team, your school or your coach. Just you.

Kidding. (Not you. The other guy.)

That was a long way for me to get into why I’m going to the Chick-fil-A press conference today. To all Tennessee fans: I don’t hate your team. I certainly don’t hate your coach, Lane Kiffin. Fact is, I would do anything in my power to give Lane Kiffin a lifetime contract.

Here’s a general rule about sports …

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