Passing the Slow Summer

Or, what Mike Vick, A-Rod and Houston Nutt have in common  

Sports

by Tony Basilo

So what's a sports radio host to talk about in early June? People are people! People, even gifted, highly-talented athletes and highly-paid coaches are flawed. They screw up. Sometimes interestingly so. This and human heart and spirit personified through sport are what get me through the slow time.

If that doesn't work, just open up the New York Post and read about A-Rod, I mean, Alex â“Stray-Rodâ” Rodriguez of the Yankees and his extramarital affairs. Is this sports or entertainment? I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little entertaining to read the recent Post headline â“Yankee Doodle Randyâ” regarding Rodriguez's thirst for 20-something blondes, complete with pictures. Some are decrying the media's crossing of the line by publishing the photos and the story. It's long been an unwritten code that off-field dalliances are to remain off-field and thus out of the papers. What the critics fail to realize is that â“Stray-Rodâ” is the highest-paid player in baseball, American sports' most hallowed and historic franchise.

The Rodriguez thing has many believing the sports world is going nuts. Across the state of Arkansas, they know better. Theirs is a realm dominated by the off-field circus that has been the dismantling of the defending western division champion Razorbacks by its own fan base, supporters and residents of the state. Houston Nutt finished 10-2 in the regular season only to lose his final two games. This was only the beginning as he also lost Mitch Mustain, his starting quarterback of the future, along with fellow Springdale, Arkansas product wide receiver Mike Williams, both of whom transferred to USC. This while offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn left the staff for Tulsa after one season.

If only the losses stopped there. Like â“Stray-Rod,â” Nutt has become tabloid fodder after a zealot wayward Razorback fan was given access to Houston Nutt's cell phone activity after challenging open record laws. Nutt had some explaining to do after hundreds of text messages showed up to a sweet young Little Rock, Ark., anchorwoman. Nutt said the texts, which were so frequent that one even occurred as Arkansas was about to kick off in the Citrus Bowl, were charity-related. Maybe he was working with this babe on Michael Vick's â“Pets In Troubleâ” (PIT for short) philanthropy. So Nutt spent late May at the SEC spring meetings enjoying a respite from the soap opera that has become his life, while the sand can't go through the hourglass fast enough for Vick.

Each passing day brings different revelations of Vick's involvement in a fighting pit-bull harvesting operation. The court of public opinion has determined that Vick is into all aspects of this felonious activity right up to his surgically repaired knees. One ESPN informant who is cooperating with federal authorities said that Vick bet as much as five grand per dogfight, dating back to his time as a star quarterback at Virginia Tech. Vick initially played dumb (his NFL career will show he's pretty good at that) before dummying up when the evidence began to mount. Now, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may be forced to sack Vick for the upcoming season. The Falcons would fit right in NCAA Division 1-A since they don't have to worry about the â“Pâ” word anytime soon.

When Florida was facing the prospect of being left out of the BCS Title Game last December, school president Bernie Machen became a verbal proponent for an NCAA playoff. Even though his Gators ultimately won the national title with the BC-Mess, Machen decided to follow through and take his playoff crusade into the off-season. The former dentist learned just how embedded the Bowl Cartel is in college football's culture. Machen talked tough about reforming the system until getting clobbered by open-fisted, closed-minded fellow SEC presidents. Machen began his crusade with great verbosity and energy only to end it with two words, â“I'm done.â”

The sad thing is that only two SEC head football coaches stood up to be counted on the issue in stumping for a playoff. Let a league institution get shafted like Auburn a couple years back and we'll see some major-league whining in December. Personally, I don't want to hear it. These guys had their chance to be counted and chose not to. Coaches, athletic directors, school presidents, TV networks and bowl commissioners all categorically reject any talk of a playoff. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a better chance of landing Michael Vick as a spokesman than we have of seeing a real college football playoff in the next 20 years.

We had March Madness, how â‘bout June Justice? That's what would be in the offing if the Lady Vols can bring home the women's softball national title. Is any athlete in UT history as deserving as Monica Abbott to go out as a national champion? Now there's something to talk about!

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM.   Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.

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