Speed Read: Will H1N1 Affect NCAA FB Season?

Yesterday, Adam J mentioned that Vegas is bracing for the effect swine flu could have on college football betting lines this year, with casinos planning to hold out on releasing lines for as long as possible to make sure teams aren’t affected. Adam also rightly points out that a swine flu outbreak in and of itself isn’t any different than a bout with food poisoning or any other bug that might be going around on a team. But those types of ailments are usually few and far between. The difference with the swine flu is that it’s not really a matter of “if” it’s going to happen to your team, but “when.” And that should be unsettling to any fan whose team is a national title contender this year.

Swine flu

(Anyone picking Arkansas in the SEC West this year?)

TCU is the latest team to be struck by the virus, with at least five players reporting symptoms a little more than a week in advance of the new season. And, although it isn’t yet confirmed, it’s suspected that members of Alabama’s team have come down with it as well.

In an odd way, you might say that these two teams are among those with an advantage over their competition this year. Teams that get it out of the way now aren’t going to have to deal with it later in the season, when the stakes are higher and tired, weary bodies may react more negatively to the virus itself.  With the amount of, um, interpersonal contact involved in a college football game, it seems likely that H1N1 will make the rounds throughout the sport this year. And a poorly-timed outbreak could leave a team significantly weakened on a game day.

Swine flu girl

(Good luck getting girls to make out with you at parties this year, college dudes)

Plus, schools and the NCAA I assume will have to work together to come up with some sort of protocol for using players who are suspected or confirmed to have the virus. If they feel up to it, will they be allowed to play, knowing that they could spread it to their teammates and opponents?

Let’s put it this way: Troy travels to Gainesville to play Florida a week before the Gators host Tennessee. What if half of Troy’s team comes down with the virus (that isn’t so far-fetched: see Duke) in the days before that game. Do the Gators want anything to do with that team, knowing that they have Lane Kiffin coming to town the following week? Would non-infected teams have grounds for refusing to play an infected team? (I understand that’s unlikely, but it’s at least a thought, right?)

Tim Tebow Heisman baby pose

(It’s all fun and games now, Tebow, until those Crocs and that baby give you debilitating diarrhea)

I’m not trying to overstate the effects of H1N1. I understand that in most healthy people, like college athletes, the symptoms are relatively mild. But if 50 or more guys on a football team are going through it at roughly the same time, there will certainly be a difference in how they play on game day. In college football, one bad week can ruin a national title run. You figure that some highly-ranked team is going to get unlucky enough to have this get to them at precisely the wrong time.

Which team would you most like to see get swine flu right before their biggest game of the year?

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Man, has it been a good couple of weeks to be covering college sports in Kentucky. Even the guy who doesn’t even coach there anymore is getting in on the act. Of course, I’m talking about Billy Gillispie’s DUI, which we did mention yesterday.

Billy Gillispie

But I revisit it today because of the hilarity contained in the police report about the incident (of course, other than the fact that DUIs aren’t particularly hilarious). Quoted text courtesy of the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL and LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER:

The officers asked Gillispie for his proof of insurance, and he said it was in his golf bag in the trunk.

Well, sure. I mean, who doesn’t keep their car insurance card in their golf bag?

“During the exit, he used the door for balance and was confused on how to open the trunk”

He’s driving a Mercedes, so there’s like a 100% chance that opening the trunk involves pushing the button on the car key that looks like a trunk.

“I asked Billy if he had had anything to drink tonight. He stated no he had been golfing all day.”

He was arrested at 2:47 a.m. Now, unless he has some of those special golf balls that light up, he had most certainly been done golfing for, oh, somewhere in the neighborhood of seven hours. Not only is that enough time to get hammered, but he could’ve slept with some random lady at a restaurant and paid for her abortion and still had an hour left over.

The report said Gillispie, who was driving, had red eyes, slurred speech and a “strong fruity smell coming from his person (possibly wine).”

What, Billy couldn’t have been slamming appletinis?

Billy Gillispie

(”I’m more of a Midori sour guy”)

Michael Vick made his preseason debut last night. Here’s a story about it. If you want to know anything more about it, just tune into the 24/7 coverage on ESPN today. Hey, at least they stopped talking about Favre for a day.

• Speaking of Brett Favre, instead of the inevitable “retirement” press conference that’s coming at the end of the season, ESPN should just air this clip of Pat Cashman from the late, great sketch comedy show “Almost Live”:

• Yes, there is a Hall of Fame that believes Chuck Finley and Brian Downing are worthy of induction.

• God is about to fire Donald Trump’s golf course near L.A.

• Red Sox shortstop Nick Green pitched two scoreless innings in last night’s 9-5 loss to the White Sox. Still looking for a closer, Phillies?

• Italian national soccer coach Marcello Lippi says he won’t choose any gay players for his World Cup squad. Aside from this being an asinine thing to say, how would he know? How’s he going decide which of these guys is gay?

Italian soccer players

• Ahhhhh! Let’s get this back on track. Save us, Anna Rawson!

Anna Rawson

• Arizona is going to be devastated if the pro sports team that’s threatening to leave actually goes through with it. We’re talking about the Cubs, of course.

• I don’t normally agree with CBS SPORTS’ Gregg Doyel, but he makes some good points about the whole Caster Semanya story, like this one (in context, the “ugly” comment makes sense):

If there were questions about Semenya’s gender, they should have been asked and answered before she raced. If she was female enough to enter the race, she should be female enough to win it. She didn’t get any less feminine in the 1:55.45 it took her to win. Her gender never would have been questioned had she finished seventh, because she wasn’t too ugly to enter the race. She was just too ugly to win it. 

Dan Duquette used to run the Red Sox. Now, the military-themed semi-pro baseball team he owns in Nashua, NH, has been locked out of their own stadium because they owe about $45,000 in back rent and other services.

• Former NHL coach Jacques Demers, who was illiterate for most of his adult life, has been appointed to the Canadian Senate. He’ll be traveling the country hosting town hall meetings about tuque reform.

• The WIZ OF ODDS says 51% of the games involving Division 1-A (or FBS, whatever) teams in week 1 of the college football season also involve a 1-AA team, the highest such percentage ever.

Speed Read: Hey Kids! The Vick Circus Is In Town!

I know you thought Thursday would never come, but it’s here. And yes, I told you that if you were good, I’d take you to the Cirque du Vick, that dramatic mix of circus arts and occasional football plays scheduled for tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s Michael Vick’s return to the NFL, making this not just another exhibition game no one will watch, but must-see entertainment. Hey, I don’t make the rules. I just observe.

And there’s plenty of excitement in store, including a pro-Vick march and rally by the NAACP, possible disruption by PETA and other anti-Vick factions, and of course the always-reliable Philly fans themselves (hey, who threw that brick!?). Unfortunately, the ride depicted in the photo above left and in the video below will not be available. The guy in a Vick jersey riding a puppy is either a tragic coincidence, or an example of a man who majored in Irony and wants to put that degree to use for once.

The YouTube description says it was shot at an amusement park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and that’s all I know about it. Except that what he’s doing is just wrong on so many levels. But it fits right in with the festivities here on Michael Vick Day, so climb aboard, kids! Just don’t let Steeler Poodle see you.

Steeler Poodle

(Steeler Poodle sez: “Big Ben is innocent!”)

Eagles head coach Andy Reid has said that Vick will play with the first team at some point during the first three quarters tonight, but in what capacity and for how long is still shrouded in mystery. Andy, you sly minx. Presenting Vick tonight after only two weeks of practice serves no actual physical purpose, since he’ll be sitting out at least the first five games of the regular season. But by throwing him into the mix tonight you get the majority of the controversy out of the way early; like a first kiss. But beware, Mike; Philly fans like to slip in the tongue.

It’ll be Vick’s first appearance in an NFL game since Dec. 31, 2006; which was also at Lincoln Financial. And he’ll start today in federal bankruptcy court, which is always fun. Then it’s home to feed the dogs, and then on to the game. Yeah, it’s unknown if Vick has truly seen the light and is genuinely remorseful over his dog-killing past. But what we do know is that all the publicity surrounding his incarceration hasn’t helped dogs one bit. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has reported 400 investigations of dogfighting operations so far this year; almost twice as many as in all of 2008.

But in case any of you fans are actually interested in the game, please note that former Eagles three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas returns to Philadelphia for the first time since joining the Jaguars. And there may even be a Brian Westbrook sighting tonight, but don’t expect to see him for long. If you’re not a local, the game will be shown on NFL Network tonight at 11 p.m. (ET), and again on Friday at 4 p.m. (ET).

Meanwhile, at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the MLB Players’ Union got a favorable ruling on the infamous 104-player PED list, and may soon have it back in hand where it will be carried forthwith to the nearest shredder.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that agents had no right to seize baseball’s anonymous drug-testing results from 2003. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for the players’ union, which has argued for years to have the results of the 104 players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 returned.

“This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the 9-2 decision.

The records, seized by government agents in April 2004 as part of the BALCO investigation into Barry Bonds, has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since. If the case doesn’t end up in the Supreme Court, the list will be returned to the players’ union, where it will presumably be destroyed. The court ruled that federal agents trampled on players’ protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in taking the list, which included Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, who were among those whose names were leaked.

The American Defenders of New Hampshire were supposed to play the New Jersey Jackals in a Can-Am pro baseball game on Tuesday, but there was one problem: They faced a lockout. But it isn’t the kind of lockout you’re used to hearing about; the City of Nashua locked the stadium because the team was behind in their rent. The Defenders — formerly known as the Nashua Pride — owe fire, police and rent bills totaling about $45,000 according to mayor Donnalee Lozeau. And to make sure the teams didn’t scale the fence and play the game anyway, Lozeau had city workers park a tractor over home plate. This is true. Fun fact: The Defenders team president is Dan Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox. They’re now on the road, but as of today, the stadium impasse has not been resolved.

Links to read while sharing Pop Tarts with your gorilla:

  • Above is a photo of a very toasted Billy Gillispie, who was arrested by Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, police early this morning for DUI. Yep, that’s the former Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach, who was fired in a contract dispute this past March and has since sued the university for breach of contract. Gillispie and a passenger were driving a white 2009 Mercedes with Texas tags around 2:45 a.m. on US 127 when someone reported seeing the car driving erratically. Gillispie was arrested and charged with DUI, and reportedly refused to take a breathalizer or blood alcohol test. Gillispie had also been arrested for DUI in Oklahoma in 1999.
  • Allen Iverson may be a Grizzly before you know it. Memphis confirmed that they’ve made him an offer, but will AI go through with it? I can’t picture him in Memphis; it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Iverson touring Graceland is just too bizarre.
  • Not sure if this happened before or after David Ortiz’s walkoff home run gave the Red Sox a 3-2 win over the White Sox on Wednesday, but Boston released Brad Penny, who was 7-8. Penny, 1-6 over his past 11 starts, is working on the one-year, $5 million contract he signed during the offseason.

  • In naming Shaun Hill as the team’s No. 1 quarterback on Tuesday, 49ers coach Mike Singletary praised him in the way that only Mike Singletary can. In other words, it’s our baffling NFL quote of the Year so far: “There’s nothing pretty about Shaun. Everything’s ugly: His drop … his release … all these things. But what’s beautiful about him is his heart. I want to go down with a guy like that.” Season tickets still available!
  • Was watching Brad Cooper on “The Tonight Show” last night, and he almost revealed who will be taking up the Mr. T role in the new “A Team” movie that’s on the way to theaters (Cooper will play Faceman, with Liam Neeson as Hannibal). Cooper wouldn’t spill the other big role, but according to several sources, BA Baracus will be played by Rampage Jackson.

Will you watch the Eagles-Jaguars game on NFL Network because of Vick?

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Red Sox Not Amused By “Steroid Doctor” Rumors

In the wake of Manny Ramirez’s PED suspension - perhaps you’ve heard a bit about it - everything about his career has come under increased scrutiny, especially his glory years in Boston. It’s only fair, as long as “scrutiny” doesn’t cross the line into “assumed guilt.” Scrutiny isn’t evidence, it’s looking for evidence.

Dan Duquette Needle
(”Dr. Steroid, do you have anything to add?”)

Oh, but then there’s former infielder Lou Merloni. On Saturday, he told Comcast’s THE BASEBALL SHOW that during his Red Sox stint, he’d attended a spring training meeting where a doctor taught the players about how to properly use steroids. Eeeep.

Merloni has since backed off a bit, telling the BOSTON GLOBE that the doctor was in no way endorsing the PEDs, but advising against improper use (overuse, needle misuse, etc.). There’s a jarringly apt analogy that we’ll get into later. Fortunately, the Red Sox brass are taking this in stride. Just kidding, they’re on the warpath: Read more…

Pro Baseball Team Drafts Ex-Military For Players

The NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION-LEADER reports on a novel concept being tried by former major league GM Dan Duquette and former MLB player Brian Daubach. The two, along with a host of investors, are rebranding a minor league baseball team that will now have a decidedly military theme, including stocking the club’s roster with former members of the Armed Forces.

Brian Daubach American Defenders Of New Hampshire Manager

(Brian Daubach hopes to get some shuteye before taking over team)

The former team was called the Nashua Pride and had Duquette running personnel and Daubach as hitting coach. The new club, called the “American Defenders of New Hampshire,” will be managed by Daubach with Duquette still running the front office. The team will play in the indie Can-Am League at a park in Nashua, NH, while wearing camoflauge jerseys and charging $9.11 for tickets.

And no, I’m not kidding. Read more…

Ex-Red Sox GM Sold WS Tix To Mayor For Favors

The former GM of the Boston Red Sox is in trouble for supposedly selling World Series tickets to a Massachusetts mayor in exchange for favors to his minor league team.

Dan Duquette arms up

(”Don’t shoot! I give up!“)

The BOSTON GLOBE reports that Daniel Duquette sold Pittsfield mayor James Ruberto two tickets for the 2004 World Series at face value, in return for allowing Duquette’s Berkshire Dukes baseball team to play in Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park.

Although Duquette didn’t give the tickets to Ruberto for free - which would have been against state law - the State Ethics Commission says the face-value sale still violated a conflict-of-interest statue. Read more…