Archive for December, 2010

I’m going into hibernation, but first I wanted to say thanks

Another New Year's resolution, sure to be broken.

Another New Year's resolution, sure to be broken.

I have a problem. (Many problems,  but let’s stick to one.) I’m terrible at taking time off. I never use my entire vacation allotment, and the past two years I’ve hit December having taken exactly one week off in the calendar year.

So I wind up trying to play catch-up ball. Or catch-up rest. I took a week off earlier this month, and I’m sitting out until Jan. 3, 2011. (Which means I’ll miss the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which I’m sure is fine with the folks who run the thing. They hate me.) But I wanted to take this final opportunity to say thanks.

This dumb little blog keeps growing: From 1.976 million page views in 2008 to to 6.8 million last year to 8.954 million so far in 2010. Every time I think we’ve topped out, y’all prove me wrong. And for that I’m hugely grateful to one and all, even the 8.953 million of you who’ve called me an idiot.

Because I pretty much am an idiot. But my New Year’s resolution is to be a rested idiot, so …

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On a night with everything to gain, the Falcons somehow lose

Do you believe in miracles? Uh, not this night. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Do you believe in miracles? For Matty Ice, there were none this night. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The biggest home game in franchise history: That’s how this was billed, and here we pause to note that 46 seasons make for a considerable chunk of history. (Almost half a century!) And even if the Falcons entered Monday night’s game against New Orleans with a comfy Plan B — they could lose to the Saints and still win the NFC South and clinch a No. 1 seed by beating Carolina on Sunday — nobody wanted to do it the easy way.

But that, alas, is the way it will have to be. The Falcons tripped over their moment. This isn’t to say they can’t have moments still, but they couldn’t handle this one.

If you’re going to be a champ, you have to show you can beat a champ. The Falcons had already taken down the reigning champs once this fall, but that was in Week 3 in the Superdome when not many people thought this team would be 12-2 on Christmas. That was a case of a rising team slipping up on an …

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Live from the Dome: The risen Falcons eye their culmination

A proud patron on Dec. 10, 2007. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A proud patron on Dec. 10, 2007. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It was a Monday night in December, and the Saints were in town. It was not a tough ticket. It was simply tough to watch.

It was Dec. 10, 2007. Earlier in the day Michael Vick had been sentenced to 23 months in jail by a judge in Richmond, Va. That night the team Vick used to lead lost to New Orleans 34-14 under the Georgia Dome to fall to 3-10. The next night would see Bobby Petrino, who had coached the Falcons those 13 games, being introduced as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

For a franchise that had seen its share of valleys, that week — it closed with the Falcons losing 37-3 under interim coach Emmitt Thomas in Tampa — was the nadir. It was possible to view this city’s NFL entry as having nothing: No coach, no quarterback, no hope.

On a Monday night three years and 17 days later, the Falcons again played host to the Saints on a Monday night, and this time it wasn’t a occasion best avoided. It was, on …

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Another no-show for UGA’s Caleb King, who’s a bowl no-go

This remains the highlight of Caleb King's UGA career. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

This remains the highlight of Caleb King's UGA career. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Caleb King won’t play in the Liberty Bowl due to academic concerns, which means the Georgia tailback will complete 2010 having missed five games three different ways — two with an injury, two more due to suspension for failing to appear in court regarding a speeding ticket and now this latest suspension, incurred for missing at least five “academic-related appointments.”

Caleb King, it would seem, isn’t particularly skilled at showing up. He needs to remedy that. Because it’s clear even the endless patience of Mark Richt is nearing its end. Speaking of King, Richt told reporters in Memphis on Sunday: “We’ve played some games without him before, and we’ll do it again.”

It’s not as if King has been indispensable: He has had two 100-yard rushing games in three seasons. The first was his 166-yard showing against Georgia Tech in 2009 on a night when Washaun Ealey gained 183. This season King …

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The 2010 Accountability Scoreboard: Wrong about everything!

Oh, woeful me. (AJC photo by Ben Gray; illustration by Mandi Albright)

Oh, woeful me. (Photo by Ben Gray; illustration by Mandi Albright)

The annual Accountability Scoreboard reflects, I’m afraid, a bleak House of Bradley. I was wrong about pretty much everything in 2010. Usually I’m only wrong about most things. A partial recap:

• Wrong about Georgia Tech beating Iowa in the Orange Bowl and beating Georgia in basketball. When your year starts with you being wrong about the same school twice on the night of Jan. 5, you should know you’re in for it. Though I was too stupid to know any such thing.

• Wrong about Texas beating Alabama in the BCS title game. Though I might have been right if not for Mack Brown’s SHOVEL PASS.

• Wrong about the Braves finishing third behind Florida and Philadelphia in the National League East.

• Wrong about Duke getting beat by Louisville in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament. Wrong also about three of my Final Four, being right only about West Virginia.

• Wrong about the Hawks beating Orlando in Round 2 of the …

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Update: Three more Tech players suspended – for a half

John Dewberry helped Bill Curry win in Athens. But not in Birmingham. (AJC file photo)

John Dewberry helped Bill Curry win in Athens in 1984. The QB was no help in Birmingham in 1985. (AJC file photo)

Update: Georgia Tech announced Sunday that three more players — defensive Anthony Egbuniwe and defensive backs Michael Peterson and Louis Young — has been suspended for the first half of Monday’s Independence Bowl. They broke curfew in Shreveport, which I believe trumps John Dewberry’s curfew-breaking in Birmingham in 1985 for sheer ingenuity.

It’s that festive time of the year when Georgia Tech lets us know which of its players won’t be playing in a bowl game. The Jackets arrived in scenic Shreveport on Thursday, just in time to offer the following release:

Shreveport, La. – Georgia Tech announced today that four football players, including two who have already earned their undergraduate degrees, will not play in Monday’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl because of various academic issues.

Senior defensive end Robert Hall and senior linebacker Anthony Barnes are …

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GM Rick Dudley on his Thrashers: ‘I think we’re for real’

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Thrashers slipped out of first place in the NHL Southeast this week. (They play Boston tonight, so this is subject again to change.) What’s significant is that the Thrashers were in first place this deep into a season. What’s also significant is that Rick Dudley, the first-year general manager, believes the best still awaits his club.

“If you’re asking for a philosophic outlook,” Dudley said this week, “I think it’s fair to expect us to play well the rest of the way. People around the league are coming up and saying, ‘You guys are for real,’ and I think we are. We should be nothing but better in time.”

Dudley was Don Waddell’s deputy last season, and the chief reason the Thrashers dumped coach John Anderson this spring was the belief  they had enough talent on hand, Ilya Kovalchuk’s forced departure notwithstanding, to have made the playoffs.  (They missed by five points.) Dudley was promoted …

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Are you stunned by Georgia Tech’s loss at Siena? Me, neither

This marks the third time in 11 seasons Georgia Tech has lost five non-conference games before Christmas under Paul Hewitt. This is significant because Tech under Hewitt has only once done better than 8-8 in ACC play.

Simple math: Five non-league losses plus eight conference losses plus another in the ACC tournament — the Jackets have never won that event under Hewitt — and you’ve got 14. Fourteen is too many to get a team into the NCAA field. (Yeah, I know the field has expanded this season — by three. Same difference.) And Hewitt has said he believes this team is good enough to be an NCAA team.

More history: The two other times Tech under Hewitt has lost five non-league games before Christmas, it hasn’t just missed the NCAA — it has finished with a losing record. (The Jackets were 15-16 in 2000-2001, 15-17 in 2007-2008.) Should Tech have a losing season in 2010-2011, that would make three in the past four tries. That would be enough under ordinary circumstances to find a new …

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A.J.’s legacy at UGA: A great player who didn’t go great places (UPDATE: Green Tweets he’s not leaving – at least not yet)

A.J. Green: It's no stretch to say he's the best Georgia receiver ever. (AJ photo by Brant Sanderlin)

It's no stretch to say he's the best Georgia receiver ever. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

If A.J. Green is indeed gone to the NFL, as two sources close to the Georgia program have told Zach Klein of Channel 2 Action News, he’ll leave a hollow legacy at Georgia. He’s the best-ever Bulldog receiver, and his surpassing has taken Georgia, in chronological order, to the Capital One Bowl, the Independence Bowl and the Liberty Bowl.

Part of this can blamed on circumstance: Green worked with three different starting quarterbacks in his three seasons. Part can be blamed on Green himself: At a time when his team needed him most, he got himself suspended for the silly sin of selling his jersey from a nondescript bowl for $1,000. On cue, the 2010 Bulldogs lost three of the four games he missed, thereby relegating them to yet another nondescript bowl.

There can be no complaints about Green the player. He made big plays, spectacular plays, winning plays. Had he arrived at the beginning of …

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From ‘epic fail’ to the playoffs: Saluting Frank Wren’s wild year

Frank Wren on the day

Chipper Jones went down, but Frank Wren stood tall all season. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

One year ago today, Frank Wren consummated the trade that prompted this correspondent to write the geeky words “epic fail” and to describe it as “the worst thing I’ve seen all year.” (Not that you can actually see a trade happen, but I was so stunned I was thinking even less clearly than usual.)

It was, as I’m sure you remember, the Javier-Vazquez-to-the-Yankees swap, and two of the three acquired players (Melky Cabrera and Mike Dunn) have already been rendered ex-Braves. And the third, young pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, hurt his arm midway through the minor-league season. But you know what I’m calling Frank Wren 365 days later?

My man of the year in Atlanta sports.

The Braves broke a four-year playoff drought for many reasons — Jason Heyward’s flying start, Tim Hudson’s recovery, Troy Glaus’ month of May — but mostly they broke it because their general manager kept plugging leaks, of which …

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