Wow, we've been out of the saddle for a while and we appreciate the feedback even if we were not the most responsive over the last 10 days.
We're back, and while we don't know if we are better than ever, we know it's as long as ever. So there's that.
Hey, remember the mailbag — and if you sent in one over the last couple of weeks, please send it along here, email or on the Twitter @jgreesontfp.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's do this.
U.S. wins World Cup opener
We tried to swing by Jefferson's on Press Row to watch the U.S.-Ghana soccer match. It was a packed house, as Idris Gracia told TFP readers here.
It was fun. The late goal by that guy on that kick from the corner (what are those called again?) gave the U.S. a thrilling 2-1 win over a Ghana team that has been a thorn in its side in the last two World Cups.
The World Cup is fun and the swell of patriotism and pride makes it even more so.
But let's please not read too much into this. One of the reasons this event has such a niche is that the U.S. is such an underdog, and that experience is such a rare experience for the American sports fan on the global scale. (Well, other than tennis, and golf is starting to trend that way.)
In truth, the U.S., despite its size and resources, will always be behind the global soccer curve because of the insane focus, pride and reward other countries place and return for soccer success. Globally, sports have become state-driven and operated enterprises for the elite. That's one way to go — and in truth the U.S. has been doing this for years, but it's run by parents and private organizations.
Still, hold the "Huge for soccer" in this country moments. This is fun, but this — and barring a long run into the semifinals or something — does not mean the great soccer revolution is afoot.
Yes, soccer is growing. Yes, it is benefitting from several social factors — parents who are more comfortable and approving of the game; kids picking soccer over baseball especially; the FIFA EA Sports soccer game (don't undersell this one) — and it is more popular than ever.
But this does not mean there will be an explosion of interest in the professional game here in soccer.
Think about it:
* There is already an elite level if competition in other countries and the best players will want to compete against the best.
* Who is going to float the money to create one in a sports climate that already feels saturated and, in truth, has established sports like football and basketball looking for ways to attract crowds.
* Plus, in the age of TV sports, soccer, like hockey, does not translate as well to the casual viewer. Sure, it is gaining popularity among the A-D-D generation of kids because there is constant motion and action, but that is for those playing it — not for those watching it as much
Tony Gwynn died Monday. He was 54. This news affected us on several levels. First and foremost it mad us eternally glad we quit dipping Copenhagen — and it made us scared too after dipping for 20 years.
That said, the very realization is that we lost the best hitter of our generation. Maybe Pujols or Bonds or some of the other guys will post numbers that are eye-popping and head-turning.
But Gwynn was an artist. A true genius with a wooden stick and the numbers are awe-inspiring:
* Gwynn went to the plate 107 times against Greg Maddux, the best pitcher of his generation. Gwynn hit .414 and struck out zero times. ZERO.
* In 20 years, Gwynn struck out a total of 424 times. He struck three times in a game exactly once — against former Dodgers right-hander Bob Welch. By comparison, Danny Struggla has struck out more than 532 times in his three-plus seasons in Atlanta.
* According to Jayson Stark, Gwynn struck out 20 or fewer times in six seasons in his career. There were 97 big leaguers who struck out 20 times last month.
* Gwynn hit .338 in his career — 10 points higher than any other player born after World War II.
* Since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, there have been 11 seasons in which major leaguers hit better than .370 — Gwynn did it three of the 11 times.
Tony Gwynn was the best pure hitter we've ever seen, and how many other guys are almost universally regarded as the best at a prominent sports skill set?
Who's the best shooter? Larry Bird is the front-runner but Chris Mullin or Steph Curry or Ray Allen are all worthy choices.
Who's the best passing quarterback? The answers are numerous and cases can be made for a lot of guys.
Who's the best pitcher? Again, the answers are far-reaching.
Who's the best hitter of the modern era?
It was Tony Gwynn and then there's everyone else.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts after being selected by the Cleveland Browns as the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft Thursday in New York. Some projected him to go much sooner.
Johnny Football Cash
Johnny Manziel can't help it right?
Here's the latest (harsh language) http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24590071/watch-johnny-manziel-pretends-giant-stack-of-cash-is-cell-phone, a video of Johnny Football holding a stack of cash — and looking a little tipsy.
Hey, we just spent a week at the beach — Johnny Football is of age and can kick back some Co-Colas if so wishes.
Still, at what point does football become a priority? Just asking. Hey, do what you like during your time, and we like Johnny Football as a player.
But for a kid that a lot of folks think will struggle in the league, and for a guy who was told by the front office to "act like a back-up quarterback" this is getting tired.
And when players in your own locker room are getting tired of talking about it, well, that's when the trouble can form.
This and that
— The world lost a great man Monday when Ron Bishop died. We were blessed to know the man, even casually. God's speed, Mr. Bishop, you left an incredible mark.
— Amid the US soccer craze, did you see the EA Sports commercial with Landon Donovan. It's here http://www.cbssports.com/world-cup/eye-on-world-cup/24590049/video-landon-donovans-new-ea-fifa-ad-is-fantastic, and it's spectacular.
— One more thing about soccer; Ian Darke, the British commentator who did the U.S. win Monday night was awesome in his awesomeness. We'll get into this more this week.
— Gang, great stuff on the Rushmore of DJs on Monday. Here's our list: Wolfman Jack, Casey Kasem, love Alan Moondog Freed (great call GD) and we'd likely go with Howard Stern, who for better or worse forever changed the landscape. (Also, we must mention that Dick Clark did more on TV so that's why he's not there and Ryan Seacrest makes like $25 million per year.)
— We missed this while we were gone, but former Georgia safety Tray Matthews, who was dismissed from the program, has announced he's headed to Auburn. Matthews is a flat stud and Gus Malzahn has earned all the blind trust he can carry after the worst-to-first SEC turnaround last year. Still, this one seems a little risky for an Auburn program that on one hand has had a lot success with former SEC players who got second chances after being dismissed and on the other was sent into a near-programming collapsing tailspin because of a complete lost of discipline and direction.
Twenty years ago today O.J. went AWOL in the Bronco with A.C. It was a surreal moment that in a lot of ways shaped the modern TV world. It was the convergence of reality TV and sports (the first true and best reality TV show around). It was part Cops and part Survivor, and the fact that a nation was watching with a very real chance that a then-beloved sports icon was going to kill himself opened the eyes of producers and directors that the child-safety label was forever gone on TV programming.
Twenty years ago. Wow. It seems like a lifetime and like yesterday.
It's one of the "Where were you moments" of the modern era — along with the O.J. verdict, which happened on Oct. 3, 1995.
What's our Rushmore of "Where were you sports moments" since 1970?
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 ...