Welcome back to the Naborhood! Wow 2012 you’re not shy. You’ve made quite the sporting splash so far. We’re only four months in and already we’ve seen more than a few headlines nobody would have predicted back when the ball dropped on Times Square. In the past three weeks I’ve been busy covering everything from Bounty-Gate in New Orleans to Petrino-Gate in Fayetteville. Just a small part of this month’s Naborhood “9”

(9) MILD MADNESS Another college basketball season has come and gone and while I love March Madness this year was a lot more predictable than in recent memory. We had some good games in the Big Dance but not the buzzer beaters as in years past. Everybody’s favorite Kentucky predictably wins it all. Hey I know John Calipari is just playing the hand he is dealt, but this team personified everything that’s wrong with the game. The one and done rule stinks. Its double jeopardy—hurting  the college game as it loses its stars and in turn damages the NBA as it gives the Association many prospects who aren’t ready for the big stage even though they are paid millions for the chance.

(8) GUS-BORO—I started a tradition of a Spring Football Tour with my work at Cox Sports Television (CST). Its been a great opportunity to get to know the coaches and players within our network.This year we covered six schools in seven days (Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, Missouri, Arkansas St & Arkansas)  One of the best and most intriguing stops was Jonesboro, Arkansas. For now they call it Gus-Boro. Brand New Head Coach Gus Malzahn is everywhere. His Billboards and T-shirts are spread out all over the city and the state. The red hot assistant coach could have gone to a bigger school but is clearly excited about going back to his homestate. He’s a proven offensive mastermind and a former Arkansas prep coach who will be a great recruiter where he tells me his goal is to transform A-State into the next Boise State. As of now he’s mum on the Razorbacks talk—if he bolts for Arkansas it would break a lot of hearts in Gus-boro.

(7) WHAT ABOUT BOB?—Let’s move around the state of Arkansas where how could you not agree with Arkansas’ move to get rid of Bobby Petrino?! Nobody is perfect but after lying to school officials and abusing his privileges in a big way—he had to go. No question he’s a great coach but its refreshing to see an SEC school step up and do the right thing. I was in Fayetteville the day he was fired and the most troubling thing I saw was the “Save Bobby” rally on campus the night before. You had fans of ALL ages show up where some compared giving Petrino a second chance to Christ and the spirit of Easter—-let’s get some perspective people.

(6) SAINT PARCELLS?—I admit the possibility of Bill Parcells as the Saints interim coach intrigued me. At first, I thought the story was crazy but the more I thought about it, I liked it. From a media standpoint, it would have been fascinating. I think it might have worked giving both offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and brand new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spanuolo more time to worry about their respective game plans. In the end, Parcells and the Saints decided to keep things in house—-an interesting and creative pitch by Sean Payton though.

(5) OZZIE BEING OZZIE—- Guillen’s talk of Fidel Castro was ignorant and insensitive and the worst thing he could possibly say especially given his job location. He has been given a free pass for so long, its clear he felt bulletproof. Hey I think Ozzie is usually great for the game and is outstanding from a media perspective but this clearly crossed the line.I didn’t think he should have been fired and thought the 5 game suspension was appropriate. I’m guessing some in Miami will never forgive him and I can’t fault them for that. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins win how Ozzie’s reputation improves but if he loses…..

(4) RAYS OF HOPE—-The Rays are making headlines for the right reasons. Its amazing the job GM Andrew Friedman does year in and year out. Adding Carlos Pena, closer Fernando Rodney and infielder Jeff Keppinger have been great moves. If DH Luke Scott can stay healthy it will get even better and he still has a surplus of pitching to potentially use for trade bait down the road. Its promises to be another great year in the Trop.

(3) HE’S KIND OF A BIG BEAL!—Predictably Gator Guard Bradley Beal leaves for the NBA—its hard to turn away from a likely top five maybe even a top three pick and all the millions that come with it.  Billy Donovan has done a lot of amazing things in Gainesville but consider this—he won back to back National Titles and multiple Final Fours with only “two” 1 & done players the past …..12 years! The other—- Donnell Harvey back in 2000—let’s hope things work out better for Beal.

(2) FEELING THE “DRAFT”: My next blog will be on the upcoming NFL Draft. After covering many of the top prospects the past three and four years along with the NFL Combine, I have lots of thoughts. The most intriguing question now is if Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill will sneak into the top five, maybe top three picks?? That’s quite a leap for a guy who was playing WR just a few seasons ago. Some don’t care for the Draft but I love it—its amazing to me every year how some of the best players are the ones picked on the second day—just ask the Saints who have built the core of its roster on Day 2.

(1) SAPP’S SITUATION: Warren Sapp’s recent filing of bankruptcy is a sad situation for a player who has made more than a few bad decisions but his worst moves were the way he’s treated the people around him. The National Media has always loved Sapp who lights it up for them but trust me when he is in front of the local media there couldn’t have been a worse guy to be around. In my 20 plus years of Sports Reporting, he is by far the rudest athlete I have ever covered. Will never forget after Bucs games (and away from the national media) how he would lay a towel in front of all the cameras so he could spit his dip on it and in front of us??  Its one thing to be bad to the media—- what made his behavior much more disturbing was the way Sapp treated fans and even kids. He could have owned Tampa Bay but had no interest in that. One day Warren will be a Hall of Fame player , but he’s not a Hall of Fame person.

Mike Nabors.

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