The Back Nine is ready for the summer after two weeks on the road covering baseball and softball. As you read this, I am hopefully sleeping in my own bed. Hopefully.
10. I’ve covered a lot of events in my life and am blessed for being able to do so. In my 55 years on the planet, I have never covered a sporting event where the players were less of a story than at the Women’s College World Series this year. Instead, the story was the umpiring. It was ridiculous. But I’m not sure it was all the fault of the umpires. College softball has to get its arms around its own rules or they are going to continue to alienate the casual fan. The illegal pitches that were called made the games unwatchable at times. The call against Washington’s Jenn Salling, who was called out for “jockeying” off third base (although she wasn’t) killed the Huskies’ chance at a repeat. The ESPN announcers were blistering the umps much of the tournament. Whether it was the silly rules or the umpires is open to interpretation but something has to change.
11. The Back Nine has learned to deal with Gainesville’s heat and humidity but it was still a difficult week at Oklahoma City where the media was forced to sit outside. I’m not complaining but I think I’m over Oklahoma City. Nothing against Bricktown, which was great again, but it’s kind of like the way I felt about New Orleans a few years ago. We were there in 1994 and ’96 for the Sugar Bowls. Went there for a Danny Wuerffel story in ’97. Stayed there for the LSU game in ’99. Back for 2000 Sugar Bowl and again for 2001 SEC Tournament. It kind of got old. After four trips to the OKC in the last three years, it’s the same deal.
12. I know Tiger Woods didn’t win the Memorial, but I think he’s back, and watch out for him at the U.S. Open. In his pre-tournament news conference, he was short with the media and blew the reporters off after Saturday. He’s back to being Tiger. Now if he can just figure out his swing.
13. So, according to reports, the Big 12 has given Missouri and Nebraska a deadline to decide whether they want to stay or go to the Big Ten. And the Pac-10 is talking about inviting six teams from the Big 12, and its commissioner has been given a green light to start inviting everyone from the Texas Longhorns to the Jacksonville Sharks. The Revolution is right around the corner. I’m starting to think the SEC will stay at 12 teams because it’s working so well. Look at the checks Mike Slive handed out in Destin. Obviously, if Texas and Texas A&M want to join us, the SEC isn’t going to turn them away. Stay tuned. The Summer of Speculation is going to be hot and sticky. But I think the Revolution is going to come faster than we thought and college football will never be the same. And wouldn’t it be great to be the AD at Texas right now? Bring me your best offers, lay them at my feet and begone.
14. While the story of Florida’s regional-clinching win was the power display by Tyler Thompson, I take you back to something I wrote several weeks ago. One reason I liked Florida’s chances to go to Omaha was its starting pitching. In the three regional games, the Gator starters threw 19 1/3 innings and allowed only five runs. They only threw closer Kevin Chapman because he needed the work. Even better, I found a restaurant in Oklahoma City that had the game.
15. I still can’t figure out who I’m rooting for in the NBA Finals. I was a huge Lakers fan but when they traded Shaquille O’Neal I dumped them. Not a big Kobe Bryant fan. But as a longtime Lakers fan, the Celtics were the enemy. As I watched the first two games, I found myself rooting for the team behind. My radio producer said I need a sports psychologist to deal with this and the fact that I have no favorite NFL team. He may be right. All I know is that we have a series after Boston’s win Sunday night.
16. So Mississippi State gets to keep the cowbells with the caveat that they can’t clang them at certain times. I wonder who will enforce that rule. Or whether it will be enforced. I still believe a crowd can be much louder yelling than it can with cowbells. But it’s part of the Mississippi State tradition. I’ve never understood how a fan base that is so ridiculed for its town can give SEC fans such an easy target as cowbells.
17. New feature of the Back Nine is the Tweet of the Week. Yes, I’m addicted to Twitter. This one comes from SI.com’s Gary Van Sickle on Sunday at The Memorial — “Thanks to Rickie Fowler’s bright all-orange outfit, I feel like I don’t need my daily Vitamin C dose today.”
18. The iPod was invaluable on these two trips to Hoover and Oklahoma City. Try these downloads — “Stop for a Minute” by Keane, “You and Your Heart” by Jack Johnson, and for old-schoolers “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye.