Everybody likes new stuff —new car smell, new clothes and of course brand new money in our respective bank accounts—but what about New Years?

How long exactly can you say Happy New Year!?

Is mid–January the ceiling or can we extend the greeting till the end of the month?  Whatever the deadline, I like saying it. It feels good and for me has a therapeutic ring to it. When I see the ball drop in Times Square it actually excites me on what may lie ahead in the next 365 days….one day I will be there in person but then again it looks pretty cold watching from my living room in Tampa.

I have no problem with New Year’s resolutions but I can never pick one thing so I use the turn of the calendar to try to reset the button on many things. I look ahead on how to be a better Dad and Husband —- then you have work. There always seem to be new areas to grow, new projects to tackle and always changes to prepare for —the New Year always brings New stuff to deal with.

Still hard to believe its 2014—I remember thinking how weird it will be to have a new century to deal with and here we are 14 years later. Time flies and I still have so much I want to accomplish, here’s hoping this year puts a lot of things in motion  for all of us. So a big Happy New Year to everyone, I hope its your best one yet. Breaking “new” ground the first topic to tackle in this week’s ride around the Naborhood.

“LIKIE” SMITH: Its always funny to me when fans and media go crazy over a brand new head coaching hire—the truth is you never know how these things turn out. The Bucs to me did the “safe” thing in hiring Lovie Smith as its brand new coach as he brings a more than respectable resume. For now, I “like” Lovie, but  I’m not in love with Lovie as most people seem to be already.

lovie smith

Smith is surely the cream of this year’s coaching candidate crop but is that saying much? There is no Andy Reid, Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden joining him in the job search pool, instead you have the likes of  Ken Whisenhunt, Tom O’Brien and even Josh McDaniels—hardly a Murderer’s Row. Lovie was the safe pick, will bring an excellent defensive pedigree and is a great teacher but was run out of Chicago for not developing an offense or a QB—something the Bucs need the most?? I also don’t agree with giving him total control—I would have preferred bringing in an experienced general manager to navigate the drafts, free agency and the cap.

While the jury is still out on Lovie Smith, I will maintain Greg Schiano should have stayed another year. He wasn’t perfect and made a lot of rookie mistakes but injuries to many key players, MRSA and Josh Freeman’s free fall would have held back even the best of coaches. Winning 4 of 5 with Mike Glennon should have been enough for him to stick around. I still haven’t given up on Glennon either as he was thrown in an awful situation. Still many questions at One Buc Place.

SEMINOLES VS SEC: First off, the Seminoles are to be congratulated as they are the champs and will go down as one of the best National Title winners of the BCS era. The fallout was intriguing though as many FSU/ACC fans instead of basking in their first title since 1999 chose to spike the ball on the SEC.


bcs trophy

Trust me I am objective on this. I went to Florida but have worked in Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee—I have no allegiance to any school—I just report on what I see and hear. What I hear a lot the past few seasons is how the SEC isn’t what’s its cracked up to be? Are you serious? Name me another conference who can roll off seven straight national titles and put four teams in the top 10 this year, not to mention seven in the top 25? The answer is none.

Stop hating on the SEC and give them its due and while you’re at it give FSU its due—they were perfect while ending a streak which should stand for many years to come. One more note in bowl games: SEC was 7-3 while the ACC was 5-6.

Speaking of college football—we can now thankfully put the BCS to pasture but to its credit— it went out in walk off style. Its encore delivered us the right title game and dished out lots of number of fantastic bowl games. As a result there were several strikes and a few gutter balls in the bowling lanes. Here are this year’s winners and losers…..

bowling strike pic


JIMBO & JAMEIS: To quote the late Jimmy Walker, FSU’s JJ combo was “Dynamite!” Jimbo Fisher was surely outcoached vs Auburn early but to his credit unlike past years remained calm, made a fantastic fake punt call and helped keep his QB composed for a legendary fourth quarter. The FSU program is now all about Jimbo who unlike Ron Zook or Frank Solich successfully has done the seemingly impossible—he successfully replaced a legend. Fisher’s turnaround was keyed by the fact he has his own version of Tebow in Famous Jameis but he’s promises to be better than the legendary gator.

The better news for the FSU Head Coach, his QB won the game for him and left room for plenty of improvement moving forward. Jameis Winston was money when it counted but will return this spring knowing he must get better in several areas as for much of the night against a smash mouth SEC defense— he looked flustered. Winston is a special athlete, no doubt he will be a winner at the next level and it seems he has the drive to get better which should be a scary notion for all of college football next season. There is no reason why the Noles won’t be preseason number one in August.

UCF: It just keeping getting better for a program that is no longer one of the best secrets in college football. The Knights became the youngest school (1963)  to ever bring home a BCS bowl win where they won a shootout with a Baylor team that possessed the most prolific offense in the history of college football. Nobody made more money for themselves than Blake Bortles during the bowling season. as the UCF QB did it all against the Bears out in Tempe. If you hadn’t hurt of Bortles before this game, you have now, as he is climbing up the draft boards where  he just might go number one overall to the Texans.

GEORGE O’LEARY: Gotta love second chances in our society, especially for those who work hard to get back on top. Knights head coach George O’Leary lost his dream job at Notre Dame with his reckless resume but has rebounded in a big way by rebuilding UCF to a level nobody predicted. Its also a lesson in patience where only a few years ago you heard some of the then “Golden Knight” faifhful, who didn’t think he was the right man for the job— when back then USF was thriving under Jim Leavitt—-things can change in a hurry.

BOB STOOPS: Stoops swagger is back where we can resume calling him Big Game Bob again. He outcoached Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl and backed up his talk of the SEC not being as good as everyone thinks. Stoops’ run in Norman hasn’t delivered a National Title in 13 years but in this day and age of coaching change, you can’t discount the fact that he’s churned out double digit wins in 11 of the past 13 seasons. The better news for the Head Sooner is he returns plenty on both sides of the ball and has seemed to have found a quarterback in Trevor Knight who lit up that Bama defense.

JOHNNY FOOTBALL: Those who have read my previous blogs know I am a big Manziel fan and feel he’s the most exciting college football player I’ve ever seen. Exciting would surely describe his goodbye game against Duke in the Chick Fil A Bowl, where Johnny Football didn’t disappoint. His Aggies were down 38-17 at halftime but with Manziel at the helm they came back in the highest-scoring game in the bowl’s history. He finished with four touchdown passes, completed 30 of 38 passes for 382 yards and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown. Quite the encore for a two year college reign which will betough to top–can’t wait to see him in the NFL

: gutter ball pic


SEC: It seems the gap is closing and that’s a good thing for college football. The SEC streak is over and it will be interesting to see how the conference bounces back next year. Gone will be a lot of marquee names such as Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron. Florida is in big time bounce back mode, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU will also be rebuilding from key losses as well.

AJ MCCARRON: It was hard to find anything wrong with the Alabama quarterback until you watched  his last college game in New Orleans. The Sooner defense seemed to put together a blueprint on how to expose one of the biggest winners we’ve ever seen in college football. AJ faced pressure like he’s never dealt with before where the result was seven sacks and two picks which led to 14 Oklahoma points. He will be remembered more for the winning but Alabama’s AJ would love to forget how it all ended.

URBAN MEYER: Nobody is perfect and that now includes Ohio St Head man Urban Meyer. After rolling over the soft schedule that is the Big 10 for two seasons he won 24 in a row but will enter next season looking to rebound from a two game losing streak. Saving his best for last wasn’t Meyer’s forte as he fell to Sparty in the Big 10 Championship game and then Clemson in the Orange Bowl. I have no doubt he will resurrect this program but for now he is in the bowling gutter…

Charlie Strong  

MINORITY HIRINGS: I hope there comes a day where I don’t have to even notice this but many encouraging signs on the coaching front when it comes to minority hirings. You have Lovie Smith with the Bucs, James Franklin seemingly to Penn State and Charlie Strong at Texas. All three are much deserving and are the cream of this years coaching crop for sure. I have always liked Franklin, who won at Vandy for crying out loud , is an excellent recruiter and has a great presence about him. He and Strong should open doors for many more minority candidates down the road too

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME: No question its the hardest of all the Hall’s to gain admission to— as seen last year when nobody was admitted thanks to the first installment of the steroid era —which was the right call. I still don’t understand why Pete Rose isn’t in??

As for this year’s class, you had a pair of no brainers in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine—you win 300 games and you are in. In fact, it will be interesting in this day and age of extended bullpens if we ever see a 300 game career again?  One more note, I covered the Braves quite a bit during Maddux’s hey day–seeing him without his shirt on in the locker room–.NO WAY he was on any performance enhancing drugs.

maddux and glavine pic

While Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell to me bring several steroid red flags—looking at Frank Thomas you knew he never had the need to beef up. The Big Hurt piled up a “legitmate” 521 home runs and an impressive lifetime .301 batting average.

I thought Craig Biggio should have been in LAST year. It would have been a great statement on getting guys in who did it right. If its clear you didn’t use steroids and had over 3,000 hits—you should be a FIRST ballot Hall of Famer. Biggio has more hits than Wade Boggs and Rod Carew and a better lifetime average than fellow second baseman who are in the Hall Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg—-its a no brainer??

In terms of the managers making it I like Joe Torre and Bobby Cox but have an issue with Tony LaRussa. If you’re gonna punish McGwire and Canseco for taking steroids what about the manager who guided the A’s ship in the heart of the steroid era. I think LaRussa should be in the Hall of Fame but because of his guilt by association–he should not be a 1st ballot skipper.

As for Bonds and Clemens—this is a tough call. Both to me are Hall of Famers because they had Hall of Fame careers BEFORE they used steroids. They shouldn’t be first ballot guys because of that but they should be in some day.

GOOD READ: Just read the latest sports book entitled, Newton’s Football —The Science Behind America’s Game, which gives you a first–how bout a book that connects Issac Newton to Vince Lombardi?! This new wave read delivers several different connections between science and football. The author’s Allen St John and Ainisa G Ramirez Ph.D lay out a number of  examples from Jerry Rice using quantum physics to help him in the West Coast Offense to  an Ivy league biologist explaining how a Big Mac of all things evolves into an outside linebacker?? Lots of out of the box thinking—good book for your budding scientist or your up and coming strong safety. Sports science is a popular trend in all leagues and this book puts a great spotlight on it—something for everyone.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT…..: Hey change is good and you can always make things better but when it comes to the NFL–LEAVE IT ALONE!! I’m talking about the recent chatter of adding another playoff team to the equation which is a bad idea. I don’t like messing with success. Adding to the NCAA Tournament wasn’t a good idea and adding more teams to the NFL postseason is in the same refrain—-you’re system works don’t mess with it. All together now—no teams in London, no Super Bowls in New York and no more playoff teams—stop diluting the product!

EXTRA POINT: Watching the last BCS National Championship game, I was wondering how did FSU’s Renegade gallop to Pasadena?  They can’t sneak that horse on a plane or a train? Well apparently according to FSU officials the horse was transported cross country behind a car. It took three days and Renegade based on all reports, was on his best behavior the entire trip—yet another Seminole victory ride in a season full of them.


Mike Nabors   @mikenabors

  PHOTO CREDITS: foxnews.com, ihatelupicablogsspot, 123rf.com,collegian.csufresno.edu, kman.com & ajc.com.

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