Wow. How about this? I felt a bit like Fish there, not blogging for almost a month. But you can't keep a good man down, and I'm back on duty and ready to roll. This is likely to be a rather lengthy blog, but I think you'll enjoy every minute of reading it. If you don't, just remember what you paid to access this site.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention first and foremost my absolute horror at the events that took place along the Mississippi Gulf Coast over the past week and a half or so. I have, as I'm sure most of you have, been riveted to the coverage, both local (WWL TV in New Orleans is great) and national. A couple of my coworkers and a few friends have been seriously affected by this disaster, and I find it very hard to even conceive of the pain they are going through. The very least any of us can do it to give. There are hundreds of worthwhile organizations that are working like crazy to help those who need it most, but I will highlight just a few that I feel strongly about:
The Salvation Army
Presbyterian Disaster Relief
Memphis Food Bank
Also, we will be doing a bunch of shows tomorrow from down at FedExForum to help Elliot Perry raise money for local Katrina evacuees. Please come down and join us, and please open up your checkbook--we will be hearing from a bunch of current and former athletes, including Elliot himself, Penny Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, Antonio Burks, Cedric Henderson, Cletidus Hunt, Isaac Bruce, Brevin Knight, and many others. It will be well worth your time, so please come on out and join us.
I sincerely hope that New Orleans will manage to keep both the Saints and the Hornets there for the long term, but I don't think that will be possible. I can't imagine that the people there will have the disposable income to support an NFL or an NBA team, and I expect that both team owners (who are not particularly fan-friendly, and that's putting it mildly) will eventually uproot each franchise. I hope I'm wrong.
I also want to take a little time to thank everyone for supporting the new soccer show, Soccer Fix. You can hear it every Wednesday from 10-11 on Sports 56 WHBQ. We've gotten a lot of positive response from people, and I am glad to know that there is a soccer audience out there listening. Let me know what you want to hear on the show--email me at email@example.com and tell me. University of Memphis men's soccer coach Richie Grant is my cohost, and he is doing a phenomenal job. I appreciate how quickly he has taken to the radio gig, and how much work he has put into it already. By the way, go check out the U of M soccer teams throughout the season--they play at a very high standard, and it is very entertaining to watch. I saw a 4-3 thriller between Memphis and Oral Roberts (the Tigers won), and it was as exciting a match as you'll want to see. Here are their schedules: (Men's / Women's).
Speaking of soccer, I have to comment on my favorite team, Newcastle United, as it has been an incredible last 10 days or so. First, the team put in a couple of dire performances against West Ham (0-0) and Bolton (2-0 loss), followed by a decent, if uninspiring performance at home against Manchester United (2-0 loss). This tremendously poor run was followed by a remarkable series of signings: first, Albert Luque, a Spanish international from Deportivo La Coruna was signed for around $16 million. Luque will provide much-needed width on the left side of midfield and can serve as a striker. The final signing of the transfer period saw the return of Nobby Solano to Newcastle to serve as a right-sided midfielder--Nobby is a personal favorite and I am really glad to see him back. It was the signing in between that has set the Toon army on fire:
I would say that qualifies as a pretty exciting signing. I cannot believe that the club managed to pull it off, but they did, and I am amazed. Owen is a genuine world-class goalscorer and considering that Newcastle have yet to score this season, I would say that's an area of need. For Owen's explanation of why he made the move he made, click here. The season well and truly begins on Saturday, when Newcastle play Fulham at home.
For the record, here is my preferred lineup for Newcastle (assuming all players are healthy):
All right. Enough of that.
As for last weekend in college football, I was hoping for so much more out of the Memphis/Ole Miss game. It was an intense contest, yes, and there were some vicious hits, but the quality of play on the field was really low. It was flat-out boring. For Memphis fans, it was a cruel blow to lose your starting quarterback just three plays into the season. It is very difficult to prepare for anything like that. It must be said, however, that Will Hudgens did in the game what he has done throughout practice: he showed great physical gifts but a poor grasp of the offense. That's why Patrick Byrne was named the starter--he knew the offense backwards and forwards. Hudgens was confused and made poor decisions.
For Ole Miss fans, though the team didn't look like anything approaching an SEC West contender, the defnse was much better, much more organized, and--how about this--Micheal Spurlock looked like a decent quarterback! That's a change right there. The running game was abysmal, the O-line was unconvincing, and the receivers dropped a ton of passes, but they won, and they, like Memphis, have a week off to fix a lot of problems. I was impressed with the way Ed Orgeron rallied the entire team together during the final timeout of the game--he's big on team spirit, and I think it actually paid off towards the end of the game. The Rebel linebackers were phenomenal.
Don't read too much into Tennessee's close victory over UAB. Tennessee typically starts slow, in this case not only because Phillip Fulmer plays it close to the vest in the first game of the season, but also because UAB is a pretty good team. Darrell Hackney will be playing on Sunday, and the Blazers have got a nice collection of talent. Tennessee will be fine going down to the Swamp next Saturday.
Speaking of the Swamp, Florida looked very solid against Wyoming. I was impressed with the defensive effort, and I think Chris Leak will adapt wonderfully to Urban Meyer's offense. Georgia just bludgeoned Boise State thanks in large part to the fact that Jared Zabransky's Heisman hopes spiralled down in a blaze of crap in Athens. He was just awful, while D. J. Shockley stepped out of David Greene's shadow and played extremely well. I don't know if Georgia all of a sudden becomes SEC East favorites just yet--I'll be watching their performance against South Carolina this weekend with interest.
All right. That's enough blogging for now. If you read this far, you are a wonderful human being. See you tomorrow out at FedExForum--be sure to give generously as we try to help the Katrina evacuees.