Archive for August, 2011

Texas A&M’s move to SEC evidence of NCAA’s lost mission

NCAA's Mark Emmert says all the right things but mission of college athletics continues to implode.

NCAA's Mark Emmert talks a good game, but mission of college athletics continues to implode.

A few days after NCAA president Mark Emmert reached for his talking points and attempted to assure the masses (suckers) that university presidents were “focused on what really counts, and that’s sustaining the collegiate model,” we must ask two questions:

What is that model and when did it mutate? Because all wonderful sound bites about integrity, academic standards and returning to the mission of college athletics notwithstanding, somebody just ran to the ATM again.

Texas A&M reportedly intends to leave the possibly crumbling Big 12 for the ivory towers of the SEC, with an announcement coming as soon as Monday, after banks open.

It’s understandable why A&M would want to escape Texas’ shadow in the Big 12 and come to the SEC, where member schools split a record $220 million in a revenue-sharing plan this fiscal year. I’m not quite as sure why the SEC wants A&M, because other than …

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Julio Jones blasts off in his Falcons’ debut (updated)

Julio Jones seemingly blasted out of a cannon in his Falcons' preseason debut. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio Jones seemingly was shot from a cannon in his Falcons' debut. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11:20 p.m.)

(Folks, here’s the early print column. I figured I would just post it above the original live blog.)

We shouldn’t judge football teams based on exhibition games, any more than we should judge paintings based on penciled outlines or architecture based on a stack of wood.

The idea is just not to look bad. A new receiver doesn’t have to make seven catches. But nobody wants to see him look up too late for a pass, have the ball bounce off his head and then run straight into the oversized inflatable mascot in the end zone.

Because that sort of thing can lead a team owner to throw his luxury suite cheeseburger at his general manager.

The Falcons played their first exhibition of 2011 on Friday night against the Miami Dolphins. Curtis Lofton had probably put it best earlier when asked what he hoped to see, saying: “We want to look like we know what we’re doing.”

They …

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Can Dan Uggla keep his improbable streak going?

Dan Uggla is one of only 34 players in major league history to with a 31-game hitting streak.

Dan Uggla is one of only 35 players in major league history to hit in 31 straight games.

Headed to the Falcons’ exhibition opener against Miami tonight, not the Braves’ game at Turner Field against Chicago, so I can’t see up close whether Dan Uggla continues arguably the most improbable turnaround  in Atlanta sports history.

I know. That’s quite a statement. But think about this: Uggla was hitting .173 when he began his 31-game hitting streak on July 5. He had 55 hits in his first 86 games. He has 44 hits in the 31 since.

While we may have assumed that he would not hit .173 the rest of the season, to suddenly turn into DiMaggio, Cobb or Rose was neither expected nor logical.

At 31 games, Uggla is tied for the 25th longest hitting streak in baseball history. We’re talking about something only 34 other players have ever done. So when you think about other unexpected Atlanta sports story lines, most don’t compare. Consider a few:

♦ 1991: The Braves go to the World Series. This …

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Tiger Woods is suddenly more legend than threat

A common sight Thursday: Tiger Woods hitting from the gallery after missing the fairway with his tee shot. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Here's a common sight in Thursday's PGA opening round: Tiger Woods hitting from the gallery after missing the fairway with his tee shot. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

On those occasions when he managed a good shot, the applause was warm, not explosive, as if Jack Benny were delivering some old punch line you’ve heard a hundred times.

On those occasions when somebody yelled his name, it came in an almost pleading tone, like when a young boy near the seventh tee said with almost tears dripping from words, “Come on, Tiger.” Tiger Woods walked past him – then hit his ensuing tee shot into the bunker.

It has been 23 months since Tiger Woods won a tournament. It has been 39 months since he has won a major. There is a point when you start to realize, he never is going to be Tiger Woods again.

That doesn’t mean he’ll never win another event. But after watching Woods implode in the opening round of the PGA on Thursday, firing a cartoon-like eight bogeys (including three doubles) over his final …

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It’s the PGA! It’s Tiger! It’s scarred greens!

Tiger Woods hits a drive on the 10th hole, his first hole of the day in the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods hits a drive on 10th hole, his first hole of the day in the PGA Championship.

Welcome to my neighborhood, Johns Creek. I live 15 minutes from the Atlantic Athletic Club, which is hosting this year’s PGA, and I’m kinda liking this short commute. It’s for that reason that I’m going to start a campaign to move the Masters here.

First, the big news: Please don’t blame my little town, but the 93rd PGA Championship is going straight to hell. The grounds crew at the AAC damaged the 14th and 17th greens during their maintenance and manicuring on Wednesday night.

This is what professional golf officials would officially refer to as bad timing.

According to the PGA, the damage is “believed to be the result of a significant rise in the dew point at 7 p.m., which caused the brushes on the mowers on those greens to stick in the grass and damage the turf.”

The danger of the Johns Creek dew points are well known around the world. This is why I never use brushes on my mower.

As a …

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Falcons’ latest secret: Ray Edwards had knee surgery

Ray Edwards hasn't taken part in any contact drills because of offseason knee surgery. (AP photo)

Ray Edwards hasn't taken part in any contact drills because of offseason knee surgery. (AP photo)

Two weeks after the signing of Ray Edwards, the Falcons say he will not play in their first exhibition game Friday night against Miami.

Why not?

“He had a minor procedure,” coach Mike Smith said.

A minor procedure? Like a nose job? Mole removal?  Breast augmentation?

No. It turns out that Edwards had “minor” knee surgery sometime during this offseason. Smith revealed this in explaining why Edwards will not play Friday, adding that, “We are bringing him along slowly.”

We know all too well how secretive NFL teams can be, particularly when it comes to injuries. But this is the fourth offseason surgery that we’ve learned about just since training camp has opened. Three players — defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), running back Michael Turner (groin) and wide receiver and returner Eric Weems (knee) — all disclosed during interviews with media members that that they had …

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Rejoice! New Hawks’ owner means end of Atlanta Spirit

This picture tells us nothing about Alex Meruelo.

We know little about Alex Meruelo. But …

He is the right guy if for no other reason than he is a new guy.

“I will be in complete control of the team,” Alex Meruelo said.

And really, does anything else matter right now?

Because if Alex Meruelo is in charge, it means Bruce Levenson isn’t in charge. It means Michael Gearon Jr. isn’t in charge. It means Ed Peskowitz, Rutherford Seydel, the ghost of Steve Belkin, Topo Gigio and anybody else who ever was among the blur of Atlanta Spirit partners isn’t in charge.

They don’t call the shots any more.

Say goodbye to exploding clown shoes.

So ends the rule of the Atlanta Spirit. It’s too late to save the NHL franchise that the former ownership

... He has to be better than what we know about Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson.

… he has to be better than Peskowitz, Gearon and Levenson.

group destroyed, lied about and ultimately sold off to Winnipeg. It’s too late to save us from the absurdity of owner-vs-owner lawsuits and daily dysfunction we witnessed for most of roughly seven years — why does it seem like 27? — in …

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Falcons’ Dunta Robinson says he needs to be better

Dunta Robinson arrived at Falcons' training, knowing he has to be better this season. (Phil Skinner/AJC).

Dunta Robinson arrived at Falcons' training camp, knowing he has to be better. (Phil Skinner/AJC).

Dunta Robinson is smart enough to know that there’s a sliding scale for professional athletes. When salary shoots up, expectations rise with it. Win, and bask in the spotlight. Lose, and burn in it.

Give Robinson credit for this. He’s not running from criticism, or the burn. The Athens native came back home last season and signed a $57 million free agent contract with the Falcons with the hope and expectation of giving them some help at cornerback. Help, he did – just not as much as fans would’ve like, media would’ve liked and most importantly he would’ve liked.

The Falcons’ pass defense was better in 2010, but well short of brilliant (22nd overall). In the playoff loss to Green Bay, defensive backs seemed like milk bottles being knocked over by Aaron Rodgers in a carnival game. It obviously wasn’t all Robinson’s fault: There were another 10 Falcons on the field (most of them …

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Over/unders on wins: Falcons (10.5), Dogs (8), Jackets (6)

According to one oddsmaker, neither Mark Richt (eight wins) nor Paul Johnson (six) will have great regular seasons. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Will Mark Richt and Paul Johnson do better than oddsmakers project? (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Matt Ryan has struggled to let go of two defeats in his career. Not surprisingly, both of those were playoff losses.

“The problem is you can’t go out and play the next week,” he said. “But you can’t let it leave you with a hangover forever.”

Not forever. Just until opening week the following season. Football season is nearing and it has been a while since all three major teams in the area were coming off such downers.

The Falcons, following a 13-3 regular season and a bye week, were hammered at home by Green Bay 48-21. Georgia, after the stench of a 6-6 regular season, did something even Bubba Joe Bulldog Boxer Shorts never could’ve envisioned, losing to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. Georgia Tech, in the year after an ACC championship, also tumbled to six wins and lost to Air Force in the Independence.

Caution tends to follow humiliation. While the Falcons may have put themselves …

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What has happened to Braves’ starting pitching?

Derek Lowe has been feeling the heat lately on the mound. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Derek Lowe has been feeling the heat lately. (Jason Getz/AJC)

So now that the euphoria over the Braves’ acquisition of Michael Bourn has somewhat subsided and we’re back to watching a team that teases you one week and then gets slapped around by the Washington Nationals the next, here’s a question:

What the heck happened to the starting pitching?

Derek Lowe is a mess — an even bigger mess than he was before. In his last five starts (1-4), Lowe has allowed 23 runs (22 earned), 42 hits and nine walks in 26.1 innings, which computes to an earned run average of 7.86. (The Braves were certainly open to moving Lowe at the trade deadline but nobody would touch his annual $15 million salary, nor even a significant part of it.)

Jair Jurrjens, 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA before the All-Star break, is 0-1 with a 6.26 ERA in four starts since.

And this may be the worst of all: In the first half (92 games), Braves starters were 39-25 with a 3.23 ERA and allowed opponents a batting average of …

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