Without excessive home run celebrations, NCAA tournament now can proceed with dignity

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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Here are three words you probably thought you’d never see.

Thank you, NCAA.

The governing body of college sports is busy usually collecting Nobel Prizes for Incompetence, but it got something right last week. It banned overwrought home run celebrations for the rest of this year’s baseball tournament.

Full disclosure: I’m an 87-year-old traditionalist who still values humility over showmanship. And get off my lawn! Especially you, Tennessee.

That said, I see why Virginia Tech fans liked watching players swing a sledgehammer after hitting home runs.

Then there were those lovable Volunteers. Players paraded around in an old fur coat after hitting home runs. That was harmlessly amusing. But they also spiked their bats, beat their chests and taunted. Nothing says “class” like flipping the bird at opposing players while legging out a double.

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Tennessee first baseman Luc Lipcius (40) is presented with the fur coat after hitting a home run against Notre Dame in Knoxville, Tenn. on Sunday. But the celebrations were fewer this weekend after the NCAA asked baseball teams to stop with over-the-top antics.

The Tennessee Vols helped inspire this turnover chain-like fever 

Knoxville was the lab for this new-age virus. It predictably escaped and began to mutate. Some opening-round games looked more like tryouts for WWE SmackDown than the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

“Potentially volatile situations were observed at various sites,” an NCAA rules official told Outkick.com.

The Tennessee effect was reminiscent of the Turnover Chain Fever that infected college football. That virus was created in Miami, which draped a gaudy necklace around the neck of a player who forced a turnover.

The copycats soon set in. Boise State had a turnover throne. SMU had a turnover crown and chalice. There were turnover beads, belts, robes, canes, tuxedos and Elvis capes.

FSU came out with the turnover backpack. As a reward for intercepting a pass, a lucky Seminole got to walk the sideline looking like Dora the Explorer.

That fad/virus seems to be fading. Miami retired its chain after last season. Someone at UF concocted one for the spring game, much to coach Billy Napier’s surprise.

“Nobody ran that by me,” he said. “That ain’t gonna happen.”

Baseball fans might think the NCAA is a killjoy, but the organization did college baseball a favor. It was just a matter of time until some unlucky slugger was forced to wear a Home Run Backpack. ...

Kudos to Gators track and field, Notre Dame and Jim Harbaugh

Stud of the Week: Florida track and field. The men’s and women’s teams swept the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. And no Gator felt the need to spike a baton or flip a bird at an opposing long jumper. ...

Stud II: Notre Dame, which upset the No. 1 Volunteers in the Super Regional. Check the Knoxville Craigslist for a good deal on a used fur coat. ...

Stud III: Jim Harbaugh. USA Today reported Michigan’s coach made good on his promise to donate the $1.5 million in bonuses he earned last season to school employees who’d taken pandemic-related pay cuts.

Dud of the Week: Deshaun Watson. Cleveland’s new $230 million quarterback admitted to hiring about 40 massage therapists (only 24 of whom are suing him for sexual misconduct). The New York Times reported Watson hired at least 66 therapists when he was with the Texans.

Again, I’m probably too old school. But I don’t think NFL teams should sign QBs who have more massage therapists than TD passes in any given season. ...

NIL News:Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud got a free lease on a 2022 Bentley. As a show of gratitude, he will allow school employees who got pandemic-related pay cuts to wash the car every day during practice. ... 

The NFL suspended Tom Brady four games in 2016 for his role in Deflategate. If letting air out of 11 footballs is worth a quarter-season suspension, Deshaun Watson should take his first snap for the Browns in 2037. ...

Speaking of Brady, he unveiled his line of underwear last week. They have "game-changing shape retention." Isn't that what happened to those 11 footballs? ...

UF recently hired Taurean Green, a starter on the NCAA championship teams of 2006 and ‘07, as director of player development. Green said Gainesville feels more like a city now because it has a Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s.

If those restaurants and NIL had been around in 2007, Green and his teammates would have owned the Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s. ...

Watson Redux: Accusers say he was big on the “Towel Trick,” where he’d insist on bringing his own mini-sized towel to cover his privates during massages. Thank goodness he can now afford to buy bigger towels. ...

NIL Recruiting Update: Georgia has offered Arch Manning a spot on the LIV Golf Tour…. Speaking of which, Charl Schwartzel took home a record-breaking $4.75 million for winning the inaugural LIV Tour/Blood Money golf tournament over the weekend. But the big winner might eventually be the fan who was hit in the leg by a wayward tee shot from Peter Uihlein. One call from Morgan & Morgan should get him $100 million out of the Saudis. ...

Lane Kiffin wins on Twitter again

Ole Miss football coach/internet troll extraordinaire Lane Kiffin got this tweet Saturday from a Tennessee fan: "Poor little lane, still wishing he was a Vol. Speaking of how is your son Knox?"

Kiffin replied Sunday, "Awesome thanks for asking!! We are watching @OleMissBSB advance to the @CWSOmaha!! What are you guys doing today in Knoxville??"

Touché.

The only thing missing was a picture of Kiffin wearing a ratty fur coat. ...

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Until next time, will the last massage therapist in Houston who hasn’t been approached by Deshaun Watson please turn out the lights.

On second thought, you should probably leave them on if he’s still in the room.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

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