Jim Harris All Access: Frank Deford on Sports Hypocrisy; SEC Power Poll


Frank Deford on Sports Hypocrisy

Speaking Tonight: Frank Deford on Sports Hypocrisy; Jim’s SEC Power Poll

I couldn’t think of a more timely subject for noted author and sportswriter Frank Deford to discuss tonight at the Embassy Suites than “Sports: The Hype and The Hypocrisy.”

After all, the hype and hyprocrisy was on full display Saturday in College Station, Texas, as Johnny Manziel was again “Johnny Football” and CBS announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson were going gaga over the Manziel magic in spite of Texas A&M’s losing to Alabama, 49-42. Afterward, the college football experts were ready to give Manziel another Heisman Trophy. A few others noted that the Heisman does have a morals clause in selecting the winner.

Plenty others don’t think Manziel should be playing college football after the off-season he’s had, particularly with his signing hundreds if not thousands of autographs so that someone — not him, we guess he insisted to NCAA investigators — could profit on the signature.

So, on a Thursday night before we embark on weekend 4 of the college football season, what could be better than a full (cash) bar, the musings of local raconteur Rex Nelson and the rest of the evening spent enjoying the insights of Deford at the Embassy Suites?

Deford appears at 7 p.m. in a benefit dinner, talk and book-signing for local public radio. Tickets are $100, and $50 of that is tax-deductible.

“[Deford is more than just an NPR personality,” says my friend Katherine Lu, who also happens to be board president of the Friends of KLRE/KUAR. “He’s a writer of great fiction and a national sports icon.”

Yes, he is. Deford even connected with Arkansas sports fans in the late 1980s when he penned a proposed play about Nolan Richardson and the tumult he experienced during his daughter’s illness and eventual death, in “Got To Do Some Coaching.”

Now, besides his work in Sports Illustrated, Deford shows up on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and on NPR (carried locally on KUAR-FM, 89.1 at 7:50 a.m. on Wednesdays). Deford has authored 18 books. President Obama awarded Deford the National Humanities Medal on July 10.

I imagine he’ll have plenty to say on the entire “amateurism” debate in college sports, and particularly with football. Sports Illustrated’s recent online series on Oklahoma State and the Summer of Manziel have become the newest centerpiece for change in NCAA in the way schools and the organization profit at the expense of the “unpaid” athletes. I’ll be interested in his take.

For six years at ArkansasSPorts360, I authored a weekly Southeastern Conference football power poll. Now, everyone seems to have one, and I’ve chosen to focus on other areas of coverage with Sporting Life Arkansas.

But I want to submit an occasional SEC poll or overview in my “All Access” column, and a three-week look at the league seems appropriate. Here’s the way I see the SEC shaping up through the third week, with Alabama having only played twice.

1. LSU (3-0) — Maybe the overall fastest team the Tigers have suited. The passing game is far more advanced under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and QB Zach Mettenberger is more confident and vastly improved. The very deep running game will always be there; the offensive line is outstanding.

2. Alabama (2-0) — Bama’s offensive line will be incredible before the year is up; just the improvement from the Virginia Tech game to the win at A&M was significant. Tide misses Eddie Lacy, though. On defense, the front is good but doesn’t look great. Corners might be a question. Hard to imagine a Saban defense giving up the long scoring plays the defense has allowed in two games.

3. Ole Miss (3-0) — Yes, I really believe the Rebels are this good. Certainly they are this talented though young. Solid quarterback and leadership from Bo Wallace, great speed from Jeff Scott that’s hard to defend. Look how well these talented receivers block for the running game. Defense will keep getting tougher. They’ll give Alabama a good game in Tuscaloosa.

4. Georgia (2-1) — Bulldogs should be fine in the East. Thought the O-line would be better than it’s been. There is no back in the SEC better than Todd Gurley, not even Bama’s T.J. Yeldon.

5. South Carolina (2-1) — Gamecocks’ talent on defense outside of Clowney seemed to be oversold in preseason. And Clowney can’t make EVERY play look like his destruction in the bowl game of the Michigan running back. Interesting to see the assistant coaching dissension on the sidelines of the Georgia game. The offense might be Spurrier’s best in Columbia, though.

6. Texas A&M (2-1) — Aggies’ defense will be their undoing. Obviously Johnny Manziel can’t be stopped; A&M can only stop itself on offense. A&M played exceptionally well away from home last year, but can that hold up against this season?

7. Florida (2-1) — Gators still don’t have a quarterback, and they appear too undisciplined in sports. Terrific defensive talent. Will Muschamp is not an even-keel kind of guy; I wonder how much this hurts the Gators in some situations.

8. Vanderbilt (1-2) — Surprised how badly the Commodores were outplayed at South Carolina, but the bad starts have hurt them in both losses. Sometimes getting over that big hurdle (betting a top 25 team) is mental. Vandy appears to have solid talent throughout now, though the quarterbacking is just OK.

9. Arkansas (3-0) — The running game, the ball control, the overall plan all give Arkansas a chance to win more than was expected in preseason. Kicking game is good. Injuries obviously will be the key; Hogs don’t go very deep anywhere. Receiving corps is missing speed and separation. Defense needs work in the middle.

10. Auburn (3-0) — Tigers are getting competent quarterbacking from Nick Marshall, and the defense is bending but not breaking. Much more discipline all the way around this year.

11. Missouri (3-0) — Mizzou has a chance to gain a head of steam with its schedule, and it will need every bit of that. Should be able to compete with veteran QB Franklin. When do we hear from all-world receiver DGB?

12. Tennessee (2-1) — Woeful on defense still. Offense can be good. Wouldn’t expect a winning season here.

13. Mississippi State (1-2) — The league is just too good for the Bulldogs. Expected more out of their offense this year. The recruiting hasn’t been good at all for Mullen these past four years.

14. Kentucky (1-2) — Stoops has the Wildcats playing hard but there simply isn’t enough talent. Unlikely to see a turn of the corner here for at least two years.


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