Friday Five: Kirby Smart will have it easy, right?

A fistful of comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports.

While wondering: Is it just coincidence that Al Jazeera America shut down operations not long after implicating Peyton Manning in a PED story? Or does Manning have a reach that extends from Denver to the Middle East? Then why waste his power trying to bring down Roethlisberger when he can go after Assad?

Kirby Smart’s honeymoon

The best thing that new Georgia coach Kirby Smart has going for him in his first season? It's not the promise of a new indoor practice facility, or even incoming quarterback Jacob Eason.

It’s the fact that Clemson no longer is a standing opponent on the Bulldogs schedule. He won’t have to face the Tigers and Deshaun Watson again in 2016-17, at least not until the college football playoffs (hey, I’m nothing if not an optimist).

And those who insist upon breaking down a schedule that doesn’t commence for eight months may say that Smart has a pretty gentle go of it for his first head coaching campaign. No Alabama, no LSU from the other side of the conference. And the Eastern Division isn’t exactly a death march.

All that and the new coach will get every benefit of the doubt from the welcoming Bulldog fan base – at least through September.

Trump talks tough on the NFL

Clearly the job of President is not big enough for Donald Trump. He should drop that campaign right now and begin angling to become the next NFL Commissioner.


Earlier this week Trump used America’s most popular game as an analogy for the country at large.

And by golly, if he were commissioner, you’d actually be fined if you didn’t cause a concussion. And every player would be issued a trident and a sword. (OK, I made that part up).

“(Football’s) become soft and our country has become soft,” he told a gathering in Nevada.

More Trump:

“The whole game is all screwed up. You say, ‘Wow, what a tackle.’ Bing – flag.”

And a little bit more:

“It’s become weak and you know what? It’s going to affect the NFL. I don’t even watch it as much anymore. It’s going to affect the NFL. I don’t watch it. The referees, they want to all throw flags so their wives see them at home. ‘Oh, there’s my husband.’”

Never has a man more needed to be sent over the middle on a pass route against the Cincinnati Bengals defense (no, the helmet of hair won’t protect him). Just for a perspective check.

 Another reason children are better than us

Former Georgia kicker Blair Walsh had his Bill Buckner moment Sunday when he missed a kick that he'd make nine out of 10 times and his Vikings lost a home wild-card game to Seattle, 10-9. His 27-yarder squirted wide left and fans who had endured sub-zero temperatures were left further numbed.

He found solace days later in the first grade classroom of Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minn., where the kids were assigned to write letters of encouragement to the kicker. The teacher saw the opportunity to impart a lesson in empathy.

People are just nicer before they learn how to use social media.

Wrote first-grader Tasha Lee: "For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppys are cute."

Another, as reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, came from little Sophia Doffin: "Dear Blair Walsh: I know that it can be hard to get through things that are sad. But you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed. You can still help the Vikings win the Super Bowl next year."

When you're six years old, there's always a next year.

For the record, Walsh, who later visited the class, told the Minnesota media that the adults haven't been too rough on him, either.

"The fan base that's not kind, I'm not worried about," he said. "There have been so many more kind responses that I've received than negative, and that shows a lot about Minnesota Vikings fans.

"There's a lot of true great Minnesotans when it comes to being Vikings fans, and they showed their true colors with the way they've treated me in a positive way. I'm not worried about the negative ones. I think they're far outnumbered right now."

And the good news is if he's ever in Seattle, he should never have to pay for an over-priced coffee.

And for your reward, you get Cleveland?

As part of the Bobby Petrino Falcons regime, Hue Jackson wasn't around long enough to make much of an impression in Atlanta.For that matter, Jackson has barely stayed anywhere long enough to leave fingerprints. Just 50 years old, he has held coaching positions with five college and six NFL teams. He has coached on two continents (a brief stint in London). He has done just about everything a man can with a whistle around his neck.

This week he was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns. I guess he voluntarily went. There was no report of a police investigation or a ransom demand.

Laboring as long as Jackson has only to get the Browns job is like working 25 years as a sous chef just to work the overnight  grill at Waffle House. It is putting half a life into doing bit parts, and you’re big break is a starring role in a Hallmark movie.

But he looked plenty happy at the press conference.

When every day is a bad hair day

As the Hawks were getting dusted in Charlotte Wednesday, their performance wasn’t the ugliest sight on the court.

The last I heard about Jeremy Lin, he was an earnest young guard, Harvard educated, serious about being a meaningful example to the youngsters.

And here the Hornets guard was running around the floor with his hair plastered straight up and high, making Dennis Schroder and his two-tone ‘do look Wall Street-broker conservative. He either chose the look or some rare tropical bird decided to perform a mating ritual on his head.

Apparently the whole “Lin-sanity” thing got to him, too. In a league of excess, Lin stands out, which is a real dubious accomplishment. It is impossible to take him seriously now.

There’s probably still hope for him. It’s intervention time. You bring the string trimmer and I’ll bring the power sander.