By JOHN FINERAN
/(Editor’s Note: The Cubs shut down Clayton Kerhsaw and shut out the Dodgers to advance to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. Wrigleyville was Rocking, and the Nation’s Turns Its Eyes to Chicago And Cleveland
Calm down, Cubs Nation. Your team has the Los Angeles Dodgers right where they want them – overconfident.
It’s all part of managerial genius Joe Maddon’s plan: Allow the Dodgers to get some big heads and some false hope. Consecutive shutouts by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill have provided the Dodgers just that as well as a temporary 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Tonight when Larry King, Mary Hart and the rest of the Hollywood Squares settle into their seats in Chavez Ravine, they had better beware because look who the laid-back Maddon has waiting for them.
Yes, John Lackey.
Fineran, have you been smoking that silly weed or snorting that white stuff? Seriously, John Lackey? The guy who got knocked around in Game 4 of this year’s National League Division Series at San Francisco? The guy who the Cubs knocked out in Game 4 of the National League Division Series in 2015 when Lackey was with the St. Louis Cardinals?
Yes, John Lackey. The guy the Cubs handed a 2-year, $16-million contract at the behest of Jon Lester, who teamed with Lackey in 2013 to bring a World Series title to Boston. In fact, Lackey got the win in Game 6 that clinched the series.
Yes, John Lackey, who as a rookie in 2002 was given the ball by Anaheim Angels manager Mike Scioscia for Game 7 of the World Series. All Lackey did was pitch five strong innings and turn the ball over to the bullpen. He did his job and the Angels prevailed, 4-1, over the San Francisco Giants, making Lackey, a mid-season call-up, the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since 1909, the season after the Cubs won their last World Series.
If there is a concern about Lackey, it’s that he sometimes allows his emotions to interfere with his performance. But right now, the Cubs need someone to light a fire, and maybe Lackey is just the right match.
Time to cue Ben Crenshaw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Msi4XLDrP4
YOU DON’T NEED A CALCULATOR OR A COMPASS TO CREATE A FOOTBALL CONFERENCE; ALL YOU NEED IS MONEY
The Big 12 Conference announced the other day that it had decided against expansion for the time being – time being until the television money cows of ESPN and FOX come up with more money.
That means the league membership in the Big 12 will remain at 10 institutions, which, of course, doesn’t speak highly for higher education. The Big 12 Conference isn’t the only league experiencing faulty mathematics – there are 14 schools playing football and other sports in the Big Ten, which recently added Notre Dame so that it could have seven schools competing for the Big Ten championship in hockey.
Yes, the same Notre Dame which is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in every sport but football (in order to maintain its independence) and hockey (because water doesn’t freeze often enough south of the Mason-Dixon Line).
Why, you ask, is Notre Dame, which is closer to Lake Michigan than it is to the Atlantic Ocean, in the ACC? Cha-ching!
Television money is why there are “have” conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pacific-12 and Southeastern) and “have-not” conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) on the Football Bowls Subdivision landscape.
The Southeastern, or SEC, has most of its member institutions in the old South – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It has three institutions west of the Mississippi – Missouri, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
The Pac-12, of course, originally was the Pacific-8 with its members in the states along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean – California, Oregon and Washington. It became the Pacific-10 in 1978 with the additions of Arizona and Arizona State, and in 2011 it added Utah and Colorado, whose campuses are 735 and 1,255 miles, respectively, from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Television money has a tendency to produce strange bedfellows.
And you thought the AFLAC duck was confused after spending time in the barbershop with Yogi Berra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-EZf56AfYc
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU TAKE YOUR (HOT) SEAT
Currently, there are three openings for head football coaches among the 128 FBS schools. Darrell Hazell, fired by Purdue Sunday, joined Florida International’s Ron Turner and Louisiana State’s Les Miles on the unemployment line. That’s after 29 schools came into the current season with new coaches.
According to the website coacheshotseat.com – yes, there is indeed a website that tracks the likelihood of college football coaches getting fired – the hottest britches in America right now belong to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. After his 2015 team barely missed the College Football Playoffs, Kelly’s 2016 Irish, who were picked for a Top 10 finish in several polls, have stumbled to a 2-5 start.
Already, there have been off-field issues just before the season started with a 50-47 double-overtime loss at Texas, which is 3-3 under Charlie Strong, who is No. 5 in this week’s watch. Kelly then fired his defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 38-35 home loss to Duke. Following a 10-3 loss at North Carolina State in a game played in a monsoon as Hurricane Matthew made its way up the East Coast, Notre Dame’s losing streak reached two with last Saturday’s 17-10 come-from-ahead home defeat to Stanford.
The Irish are off this week before entertaining Miami, Fla., and then taking on Navy in Jacksonville onNov. 5. Then after a Nov. 12 matchup with Army in San Antonio’s Alamodome, Notre Dame plays Virginia Tech on Nov. 19 and concludes the regular season at USC on Nov. 26.
Kelly’s likelihood to be fired? Not likely. He’s got the support of Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who gave Kelly an extension through the 2021 season at $4.5 million per year.
THE HOT SEATS
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
- Steve Addazio, Boston College
- Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
- Mark Helfrich, Oregon
- Charlie Strong, Texas
- Will Muschamp, South Carolina
- Chad Morris, Southern Methodist
- Mark Stoops, Kentucky
- Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
- Kirby Smart, Georgia
THE COLD SEATS
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
- Chris Petersen, Washington
- Bryan Harsin, Boise State
- P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
- Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah
- Jim Grobe, Baylor
Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly doesn’t wear his emotions well.
(John Fineran has covered sporting events for more than 40 years for newspapers in Michigan, Indiana, Florida and his native New Jersey. His three favorite sporting venues in the world are Wrigley Field whenever the Cubs play; Augusta National Golf Club whenever Jack Nicklaus played; and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where actor George Wendt, “Norm” on the TV series “Cheers” once referred USC’s horse mascot Traveler to Mr. Ed.)