Friday, August 31, 2007

Phillies Fulmer

So the Phillies just completed a four-game sweep of the Mets, and college football is about the farthest thing from my sporting radar right now, but I did promise you a preview, and a preview you'll get.

For this, my first season preview at Time stops for no one, I'll be adapting the "key dates" format I used to great effect at the News-Sun in Sebring, Fla. In fact, these columns were so well received, I couldn't find any of them when I did an archive search on the paper's Web site. I suspect they're only available by mail order, reprinted with authentic Indian ink on high-grade parchment with custom framing.

By the way, if you would like to receive a copy of this, or for that matter any other Time stops for no one post, just send me an e-mail and we'll go from there. The first 10 people to respond will get an autographed 8-by-10 glossy photo of yours truly, just to say thanks.

So anyway, on to the preview ...

Thursday, Aug. 30: Tens of Murray State fans hang their heads as the national title hopes of their beloved Racers unceremoniously end with a 73-10 thrashing at the hands of Louisville. (What? This already happened? Never mind ...)

Saturday, Sept. 1: Ahead 17-13 with 3:42 to go in at California, Tennessee's drive stalls when the Volunteers are whistled for too many men on the field during a key third-down conversion play because head coach Phillip Fulmer's protruding gut was hanging over the sideline. QB Nate Longshore then takes the Bears downfield for the winning score, and Fulmer's stomach growls all the way on the long flight back from Berkeley to Knoxville.

Saturday, Sept. 8: Down 20-3 at halftime to LSU, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer attempts to rally his team with the old "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" adage. But it doesn't work nearly as well as when he had a member of the Vick family on the team, and the Hokies spend the next week licking their wounds as a 44-3 defeat gnaws at them like a prize pit bull gnaws at its opponent.

Thursday, Sept. 13: Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen, learning from Fulmer's mistake, dons a girdle on the sideline, and the mistake-free Terrapins beat Big East heavy West Virginia at home 28-20.

Monday, Sept. 17: Two days after Michigan, playing at home, throttles Jimmy Clausen-less Notre Dame 35-3, alumna and ESPN First Take co-host Dana Jacobson opens the show by positing the theory that the Wolverines team could wind up as the greatest college football team in history. Skip Bayless spends the next hour and 59 minutes screaming the reasons why they're not.

Saturday, Sept. 22: A week after beating Tennessee and looking ahead to back-to-back games with Auburn and LSU, Florida's hopes for defending its national title end when it loses at rejuvenated Ole Miss as QB Tim Tebow has a cold shooting night with his jump passes. On the upside, he remembers that Billy Donovan has a few holes to fill on the basketball team this year.

Saturday, Sept. 29: Nick Saban gets his first big win as head coach of Alabama, knocking off Florida State on the road. The Tuscaloosa airport is jammed with 50,000 fans to welcome Saban and the Crimson Tide home, all of whom didn't realize the team took a bus. It is, after all, Alabama.

Saturday, Oct. 6: Oklahoma beats Texas 23-20 on a last-second field goal in a thrilling matchup of unbeatens in Dallas, but ESPN's coverage of the game on ABC is features so much "comprehensive" analysis from so many analysts that not one second of the game appears on screen. The network responds to public outcry by showing the feed from a camera taped to the underside of the brim of Bob Stoops' visor on taped-delay at midnight on ESPNU.

Saturday, Oct. 13: Thinking his beloved Kentucky Wildcats have finally avenged their 2002 last-second loss to LSU with a 34-31 victory, the sports editor from an Eastern Kentucky newspaper, doubling as a photographer, runs out on the field to snap a picture of winning head coach Rich Brooks as the clock runs down to 0:00. But officials rule he stepped on the field before time had expired and allow the Tigers one more play from their own 8-yard line. One 92-yard hail mary later, the photog becomes the Appalachian Steve Bartman.

Saturday, Oct. 20: If a football hits a goalpost and nobody is there to see it, did it really happen? We find out the answer to that question as Florida State's potential game tying field goal bounces off the right upright and Miami wins 17-14, but no one outside the state of Florida watches as the rest of the nation discovers that when the no-longer-relevant Seminoles and Hurricanes pass up Labor Day to play on the same day as USC beats Notre Dame and LSU beats Auburn, most people will choose to watch games with actual national title implications.

Sunday, Oct. 28: Florida beats Georgia 22-17 a day after the game is postponed because close to 150 members of the media, upset they can no longer call the game the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, storm the field after getting drunk on Patrone. Also this is the day frequent downloads of photos of a streaking Erin Andrews cause the Internet to crash.

Saturday, Nov. 3: Oklahoma State benefactor Boone Pickens has this to say in an on-field interview after the Cowboys upset Texas 38-24 at home: "You know, when I think about it, I could have donated that $165 million to starving children in Africa, starving children in Oklahoma, or to make sure every American has health coverage, or what have you ... but when you look at all these happy, screaming fans all around me, would you have done anything different?" Everyone watching this who is not clinically insane immediately pukes.

Saturday, Nov. 10: Michigan beats Wisconsin 24-10 in a matchup of unbeatens that media types hail as the Greatest Game of the Century, but which somehow plays second fiddle to hunting season in most of Michigan and Wisconsin. Still, ESPN executives scramble to clear enough space on the broadcast schedule for the ensuing Jacobson-Bayless argument. USC edges Cal 24-23 on the same day in another battle of teams with perfect records, but no one notices because it takes place way out there in the Pacific Time Zone, where the monsters and dragons and mysterious things are.

Sunday, Nov. 18: The President of the Michigan Booster Club declares the opening day for Lloyd Carr hunting season the morning after the Wolverines lose 21-10 at home to Ohio State. A day later, an angry Jacobson tries to deck Bayless in the hallway at ESPN Headquarters, leading to her dismissal. As she is being escorted out of the building by security, Bayless tells her she can always get a job brushing Woody Paige's dentures. Jacobson grabs one of the security guard's guns and shoots Bayless in the face, killing him and thereby making ESPN First Take watchable for the first time.

Saturday, Nov. 24: Miserable after being benched for Kurt Warner on the winless Arizona Cardinals, QB Matt Leinart convinces USC head coach Pete Carroll to let him sneak into the fourth quarter of a blowout 52-10 win over Arizona State wearing John David Booty's uniform. Leinart sneaks out of Sun Devil Stadium after the game still wearing the uniform, and nine months later, Booty's girlfriend has a baby that looks suspiciously like Matt Leinart's baby pictures.

Saturday, Dec. 1: LSU wins its rematch with Florida 28-27 in the SEC Championship Game, and USC gets revenge on UCLA for last year's beating with a 31-7 win to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on Jan. 7 in New Orleans. Or so we think. Computer rankings all spit out MIT and Cal Poly as the nation's top teams, and the pencil-necked geeks in charge of the ratings system don't relent until USC and LSU agree to let them have the same "recruiting visits" with college coeds on their campus that top high school football talent gets.

Monday, Jan. 7: The BCS National Championship game between USC and LSU is stopped when FEMA finally arrives at the Superdome with truckloads of food, water and supplies for victims of Hurricane Katrina. With school presidents refusing to extend the season into the spring semester to resume the game, unbeaten Hawaii is declared national champion.

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