published Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

5-at-10: Soccer, good-bye to a genius, Johnny Football, and O.J.

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.

  • photo
    Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, left, tries to get past United States' John Brooks during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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

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.


  • photo
    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.
    Photo by Associated Press

Johnny Football Cash

Johnny Manziel can't help it right?

Here's the latest (harsh language), 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, 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.


Today's question

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?


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.
WilliamRscott said...

Nice piece by Weeds about our own MocTastic + Engel Stadium. If you like MT here, you can follow him on the Twitter @gomocs57. #AllThingsChatty #GoodGuy


June 17, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- not to rain on the USA pride, but i think if you took the Seattle Seahawks, for instance, take their WR's, DB's and RB's and a 6-5 athletic TE for a goalie and trained them on how to play soccer for 6 months, they would beat our USA soccer team. . . . should get some interesting comments from soccer loyalists . . . my point is the better athletes in the US are not playing soccer

June 17, 2014 at 10:48 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Thanks Billy. Was lucky to see Gwynn play quite a few times in Atlanta. He was a great hitter. Also, don't forget his much too short career as coach at San Diego St.

Agree on Johnny Football. Backup QBs are supposed to be seldom seen or heard, just work hard and be ready if the starting QB goes down.

June 17, 2014 at 10:59 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Well, the just announced the head coach at Georgia is gone for letting players go so they can go to Auburn.

Mailbag: Still have yet to answer my question regarding the Mocs ranking on Joe Blow Sports R Us that nobody except FCS alumni care that is not sold on the magazine rack at Walgreen's I don't have time to research when I sent this in but will email you later tonight (again, this is mailbag only NO comments from the peanut gallery)

June 17, 2014 at 12:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Good stuff.

BiB —

Yes Weeds was good today. And he was great over the weekend with the Maury Wills column. And can anyone actually get enough of MT?


Got and we'll explore.

MT —

At some point it becomes the question about whether he wants to be famous or a football player.

We look at it like the combine in some ways: Yes you can go trip the lights fantastic and party it up and it may not have an affect on your football skills. At the combine, if you do not run a 4.3 40, you can still be a Hall of Famer like Emmitt Smith. But if you do not come to the combine in shape, well, that screams to some that you are not serious about the game.

Is Johnny Football serious about football or serious about being Johnny Football?

Also — Kirk Herbstreit is scheduled to join us on Press Row around 4 today. Any specific questions any one has?

June 17, 2014 at 1:44 p.m.
MocTastic said...

A topic that is beginning to surface some is if the big 5 conferences do break away will they increase their football scholarships back to around 100. Does Kirk think this will happen? This would result in about 1000 of the top FCS players now being on the roster of these schools and effectively weaking the FCS product. Obviously this would domino down to the Div II and even III level weakening every level except the very top level. The strong get stronger and the weak get weaker. Does anybody care?

June 17, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Ask Herbsteit who does his hair . . . . its pretty

June 17, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

Is that nice? Do you need a nap?

MT —

We have a few questions for him, and the Big 5 breaking away is on that list.

So is the SEC Network.

June 17, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

As great as Tony Gwynn was on the diamond (the best pure hitter since Ted Williams) it speaks volumes about the man that most of the eulogies for him have focused on the kind of man he was away from the baseball field. That's the kind of legacy we should all strive to leave behind when our time comes to an end.

Jay, I understand your concern about Tray Matthews taking his talents and baggage to the Plains. Tray has the physical skills and potential to be a great safety. Tray also has some attitude issues and seems immature right now. At Auburn, Tray will have to sit out for a season so the AU coaching staff can keep an eye on him and track any progress or regressions. The mandatory year off gives Auburn a chance to take a trial run with Matthews. If things work out, Auburn has picked up a DB with all kinds of upside. If they don't work out, Auburn didn't have much invested in him to begin with. I had high hopes for Tray in the beginning and I hate that he wore out his welcome in Athens. That being said, I hope he can get his act together and not become another case of missed opportunities and pissed-away potential.

Does anybody else get the feeling that Johnny Football is more likely to become a reality show star than ever becoming a high caliber NFL quarterback?

June 17, 2014 at 2:47 p.m.
fechancellor said...

The Magic and Tragic Moments

Charlie Hustle's Life Time ban from MLB.

Vols win National Championship

Vols kick smug Miami's ass in Sugar Bowl.

Bo Jackson injured and out the game for ever.

June 17, 2014 at 2:47 p.m.
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