published Monday, February 25th, 2013

5-at-10: NASCAR's Super Bowl, college hoops craziness and combine combinations

Wow, that was a fun Sunday. You had fast, faster and super fast. The NFL Combine to NASCAR to arguably the worst Oscars on record. It's enough to make a family-oriented, interweb-based sports columnist's head spin.

Let's start from the top, and from the "Talks too much studios," it goes a little something like this, so hit it.

NASCAR's Super Bowl

  • photo
    Trevor Bayne (21), Carl Edwards (99), David Gilliland (38), Terry Labonte (32), David Ragan (34) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) collide between Turn 1 and Turn 2 as Jeff Gordon (24) and Marcos Ambrose (9) drive by Sunday during the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

What a weekend for NASCAR. It was tragic and eye-popping and hilarious and insightful, but in the end, we were left with the fundamental truth in sports: The best are the best for a reason.

Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Daytona 500, capping the season-opening event with a rather hum-drum closing finish by comparison to the normal level of octane and energy reserved for superspeedways and restrictor-plate racing.

It was a fitting end for a plethora of reasons. Johnson won because his car was best. He finished seven spots in front of Danica Patrick, who dominated the headlines and the limelight leading into Sunday's race and served herself well in the spotlight. She ran near the front all day and finished eighth after getting caught in the late backwash of steely will and willing steel.

It also serves notice that the team to beat is still the No. 48 Chevy and Johnson, considering during Johnson's recent points domination he has controlled NASCAR's highest circuit despite struggling at Daytona. Since his 2006 win there, he has finished no better than 27th at the Daytona 500 before Sunday and finished no worse than sixth in the points race.

Finally, the race put an exclamation point on a weekend that had NASCAR among the talking points across the country for a variety of reasons, good, bad and comical.

NASCAR's push at diversity was at an apex and a nadir this weekend as Patrick represented herself exceptionally well considering the build-up, the focus and the pressure. About 10 laps into the race, it was easy to forget who was driving the No. 10 and focus on how well the No. 10 was being driven. That is the highest of compliments, especially considering the way James Franco started the 500 with his "Drivers and Danica, start your engines." (Side note: Memo to celebs who are invited to participate in the start of major sports events: Do not — repeat DO NOT — ad lib. There is a formula and it has proven to be effective. Whether it's the National Anthem, "Drivers start your engines" or throwing out the first pitch, color within the lines. Deal? Deal. Do not add extra words that you think Francis Scott Key should have included. Do not look in for a sign and try a pick-off move before throwing the first pitch and be very careful cracking jokes in front of 100K NASCAR fans who are ready to get to it.)

On a less-than-stellar diversity item of interest, rapper and business mogul 50 Cent was parading around the pit area. Exposing NASCAR to as many people as possible from all walks of our country is an excellent thing. However, 50 Cent offered a clear a noteworthy commentary on Twitter with "I don't see any black people here." Of course that settled into the background-noise category after 50 tried to kiss Erin Andrews during a Fox interview and the interweb melted. Somewhere Joe Namath is smiling.

There also was the aftermath and seriousness after Saturday's wreck that left roughly 30 fans injured when debris and car parts went flying into the stands.

So where does that leave us as NASCAR leaves Daytona in its rearview? We know the events on the track were expected — Jimmie Johnson is still the MJ at 8000 RPMs — and surprisingly effective — Danica proved she's going to be a factor this year. We know that the Super Bowl of motorsports is starting to be more like the Super Bowl of Super Bowls with the sideline attractions and sideshows.

(Side note: Congrats JJ, who had Jimmie Johnson in the Hit and Miss contest and Danica finishing 9th. Well-played indeed, and e-mail us and we'll talk prizes.)


NFL combine

After church on Sunday, the 5-at-10 was riveted by the events of the NFL scouting combine. Hey, we love the draft, and you know this.

We were mesmerized by the 40-times and the athletic gifts of the offensive skill players that worked out Sunday. We also watched some of the drills Saturday when the offensive linemen and the tight ends went through the paces. (Side note: As this event becomes more and more watched, the NFL is going to need to do something about the "required uniform" — tights — that these guys are wearing. The spandex decision is questionable in a lot of directions, and that's all we have to say about that.)

Here are five guys that made themselves some serious coin this weekend by posting some numbers that were eye-popping and entertaining.

Arkansas RB Knile Davis: After coming back from a knee injury, Davis clocked a 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 31 times. He looked the part of of being an every-down back. To put into context the size-speed ratio Davis offers, his 40 time was only topped by one running back. Auburn's Onterio McCalebb posted a 4.34 in the 40 — that was originally clocked as an unofficial 4.21 — and McCalebb weighs 168 pounds. Davis weights 227 pounds.

West Virginia QB Geno Smith: Smith's fine 40 time — he ran a 4.59 — matched Cam Newton's. Of course, Smith's best showing was in the interviews and exchanges, including when asked about matching Newton's 40 time, the 220-pound Smith said, "Yeah, but Cam goes about 260."

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert: Already atop the tight end board, Eifert showed better strength than expected and was among the fastest tight ends, running a 4.68 at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. The fastest tight end at the event was Arkansas' Chris Gragg, who ran a 4.5. Of course that highlights how poorly coached the Razorbacks were considering two of the combine's surprising stars played for the SEC's biggest disappointment.

Tennessee WR Justin Hunter: Here's what we wrote on Twitter (@jgreesontfp) Sunday: "Justin Hunter's math: 6-foot-4 x 4.41 in the 40 x 36 inch vertical = Millions of dollars." And you know what? We undersold Hunter's vertical since he actually had a 39.5-inch vertical.

Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope: He turned in an eye-poppoing set of numbers, running a 4.34 40 and posting a 37-inch vertical. There is a lot of receiver talent in this draft.


College craziness

Wow, there were seven SEC men's basketball games on Saturday and there were eight overtimes.

Four of those were played by Tennessee, which needed 20 extra minutes to beat Texas A&M and keep the Vols' small NCAA tournament hopes alive. Those hopes hinge on a win Tuesday against Florida, and we'll cover that more tomorrow.

Today, let's look back at a weekend that featured some good college basketball played with great energy. Alas, that's what the college game has left us with — an OK product that is played with great energy because of the constant turnover at the big schools and the power programs.

So as we assess the events, we feel believe...

• UK (19-8) is in right now. That was a monster home win over Missouri, which is a monster Jekyll and Hyde club. That said, UK could really damage its resume with a loss against a Mississippi State team so bad, even Auburn fans are looking at the Bulldogs and saying, "Gross."

• UNC (19-8) is in right now. Beating the underwhelming underachievers known as NC State was much-needed.

• There is no rhyme or reason to the fortunes of the UTC men's basketball team. A home bludgeoning against Greensboro led to an upset of Elon, which makes perfect sense if you're speaking Dutch to a fungo bat while trying to balance your check book in Sanskrit with an abacus that is missing an entire column of beads. Confused? Yep, so are we.

• The events of the weekend — especially Miami laying an egg at Wake Forest — re-confirm that it's the Big Ten and everyone else at this tournament.

• We are less than three weeks from Selection Sunday. (And when we get there, here's saying UT's loss to Georgia a few weeks ago will be even more painful.)


This and that

— When he gets that look — You know he's got that look — Kobe Bryant is as dominant as any player in the NBA. He got that look down the stretch Sunday in a big win at Dallas. Great competitors/shooters like Bryant and Durant and a few others flip the script. You know the script: "No, no, no...(it goes in)... Good shot." When Kobe finds it and everyone knows it, there is no bad shot.

— While they were not among the big WRs movers, former UT stars Da'Rick Rogers and Cordarrelle Patterson acquitted themselves quite notably at the combine. Side question: How much does the UT offense score if Da'Rick stays in school? Seriously. Imagine how much success this group could have had with Tyler Bray pulling the trigger with Rogers, Hunter and Patterson roaming the perimeter. We believe this: if Da'Rick had not ended up in Cookeville, Derek Dooley would still be in Knoxville. This point will be even more painful come draft day when there's a real chance that three of the first six wide receivers drafted were former Vols.

— It's a long season and you have to trust it, but what LeBron James is doing right now is overwhelming. He's averaging 27 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game and he's shooting 56.7 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3. LeBron is the best player in the NBA and posting the best NBA season in a generation. Wow.

— Manti Te'o met with a slew of reporters at the combine on Saturday and discussed a variety of topics. Yes, his internet dating did come up, and Te'o handled the swirling storm as well as possible. Here's hoping this story goes away for a while.


Today's question

A loaded sports weekend leaves a slew of possibilities for a free-for-all Monday.

Need a few talking points? Fine. Pick any one of the following three and have at it:

— What would UT's record been if the Vols' three-wide set last fall had been Rogers, Hunter, Patterson?

— Do you think Danica will win a NASCAR race this year? If so which one?

— Bigger sports lie: so-and-so runs a 4.4 40 or so-and-so throws in the 90s? Each of those numbers are elite-level performances when they are actually achieved.


about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

Koufax is back in Dodger blue!

Great weekend for free basketball in the SEC. The Vols' win at College Station proves they are a legit, scrappy team. Five in a row for the first time in five years. Stokes and Golden deserve their gaudy stats for the game.

But beating the #86 RPI team doesn't get you in. The Vols have to beat the Angry Gators tomorrow to dance. If the chlorox orange guys can manage the upset, it'd be a crime to keep them out.

On the other hand, The Cats got a much-needed top-50 win against #37 Mizzou. I thought Pressey had to have a bad game for Kentucky to win. I was wrong. The sleeping giant Poythress has awakened just in time.

Big Blue probably doesn't have to beat Flo-Rida, but it'd help. UK has three patsy warm-up games to get its new act together before facing UF at Rupp.

Jay-- Don't bet the farm on The Stinkin' Starkville Strugglers pulling the upset. Vandy (yes, that Vandy) doubled them 72-31 Saturday. The Bulldogs shot 17.5%.

And could The Vols' hoopsters use Cordarrelle?

February 25, 2013 at 10:23 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Your Bruce Benedict story on Twitter Saturday was gold. Great stuff, indeed.

Don't want to think about Da'Rick staying in orange last year, or Janzen Jackson the year before. Just would have prolonged the inevitable.

Danica won't win a race. These guys will continue to leave her hanging out to dry. Great race yesterday though. I just find Jimmie Johnson to be very boring.

4.4 is the biggest lie. By far.

February 25, 2013 at 10:40 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Apparently, Jay Graham is leaving Vols staff for FSU. That stings a bit. Guess we need to quit looking backward, huh. Tee says no and Jay leaves for another gig. They don't owe us fans or UT anything. Still, hard for us diehards to swallow.

February 25, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Koufax is such a stud.

He's also the key piece in the funniest sports-related game show moment ever:

On Jeopardy! the category is "Jews in Sports" and the answer is: "This former pitcher was the youngest person inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame."

Guy who couldn't tell a football from a fungo buzzes in and says "Who is Hank Aaron?" and Alex deadpans, "Sorry, Hank Aaron was not a pitcher."

And completely concur, Vols have to beat Florida. Period and period.

Orange —

Thanks, that Benedict story is a personal fav.

Also think 4.4 is sports' Moby Dick. High School football players that are really fast by comparison, and on a real timing system like they use at the combine, here's saying most of them run 4.8s at best.

Jay Graham's departure is HUGE. Gov'ment do take a bite.


February 25, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I saw exactly 45 seconds of Daytona and 45 seconds of the Oscars and saw about as much as I needed to see of both. Saw JJ hold off Junior at the end and actually, 45 seconds of the Oscars was about 45 seconds too much.

Why would NASCAR pick James Franco as the honorary starter? Wasn't dude on the cover of High Times magazine once? Was Matthew McConaughey too baked to do it, so they chose Franco instead?

February 25, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"Memo to celebs who are invited to participate in the start of major sports event: Do not — repeat DO NOT — ad lib. There is a formula and it has proven to be effective. Whether it's the National Anthem, "Drivers start your engines" or throwing out the first pitch, color within the lines. Deal? Deal."

Ditto on Pastor WhatsHisFace and his smok'n hot wife.

February 25, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Let's get this out of the way.


Okay, not quite the same. Slow day today. I do predict Jay will get something nice in his mailbox on Thursday though.

February 25, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

The only deviation from the script that has worked was many moons ago when a DJ started Bristol with "Gentleman..... and Jimmy Spencer, start your engines."


Thanks for thinking of us. And when is J.R.'s funeral on Dallas? Is that tonight?

— 5-at-10

February 25, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.
BIspy4 said...


Yeah, that one worked because there was more than a grain of truth to it.

That reminds me ... didn't James Franco host an awards show and it went over like a lead balloon?

I nominate Michael Buffer to do NASCAR's intro at the next Daytona 5 hunnert and to have him do the Oscars as well.

February 25, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...


I believe it is in two weeks. I'm guessing you haven't caught up yet.

February 25, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.