Shut them up, part one
The past tense version, for the Lady Vols absolutely getting it done down the stretch last night in beating Duke at Cameron Indoor. In an uneven game in a hostile environment, with the Crazies in full effect, the Lady Vols did what they do best down the stretch (and so did Candace Parker), and #2 Tennessee escaped #9 Duke by three points. No more questions for Pat Summitt, and hopefully no more talk of cancelling the series (because when you look in the paper and see UConn at 1 and the Lady Vols at 2, you shake your head that they won't play and pray for early April). But that's another notch in the belt.
Shut them up, part two
The present tense version, as the #7 men are in Tuscaloosa tonight and preparing to face a white out at Coleman Coliseum, in front of another national ESPN audience (9:00 PM EST). Bruce Pearl brings up a very valid point - the Vols have actually played better at Rupp Arena than in Tuscaloosa in our generation. Alabama is off to a slow start in the SEC, but got their first win by busting Auburn last week, and they are talented and you'll recognize the names (Richard Hendrix, Mykal Riley, Alonzo Gee).
And since we have no problem disliking Alabama around here, the Vols might as well carry it forward and silence T-Town with a win tonight. Make no mistake: with Florida graduated and UK down, it's the top ten Vols who carry the biggest bullseye in the SEC, night in, night out. Tennessee is going to catch the very best game from the opposition every time out, especially on the road. UT handled that very well at South Carolina and took out their UK frustrations by destroying Georgia. Let's not give Alabama anything else to cheer about.
This is the important precursor to what could end up as the most important weekend of the regular season: the Vols are 4-1 in the SEC and need a win tonight to keep pace with, yes, Florida in the SEC East. If the Vols escape Coleman, they'll have a date with (currently) undefeated (in the SEC) Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday night, and then another late night ESPN showdown with the baby Gators next Tuesday in Knoxville (where a pair of tickets are currently going for triple digits on ebay). The Vols could put themselves in the front of the division and conference race - but they've got to win tonight first.
Shut them up, part three
The future tense version, for the WWE. Here's a great example of great theoretical planning, poor real life results: they keep John Cena's true injury status closely guarded, and actually pull off a total, 100% shocker in Sunday's Royal Rumble by having Cena appear as the 30th and final entrant. Pulling this off with absolutely no whispers of it in the internet age is a feat to be recognized. Very well done.
Here's the problem: even though you bring Cena back, it doesn't mean true wrestling fans have forgotten how much they hate him in the four month interim. So when you bring up back and have him win the Rumble, it's a nice story...but not if you're expecting thunderous applause and the "CENA! CENA! CENA!" chants that haven't been in the majority since 2006. Instead, on Raw last night, you're getting "CENA SUCKS!" - and you don't shut up the fans, you listen to them.
And it's an even worse story when your current champion is...Randy Orton, your most promising heel on Raw. Who's drawing actual heat in a match against Jeff Hardy. Randy Orton is on the cusp of arriving as the new superheel that the federation desperately needs.
Except now, now you've got him against Cena. And while fans hate Orton in exactly the way WWE wants them to, they hate Cena with such a passion that it overrides the former. And the WWE doesn't want them to hate Cena - they want them to love him, they want them to go see his new movie when it comes out later this year.
So now, because we hate Cena so much, we'll actually be forced to cheer for Orton...which we won't have much of a problem doing really (or at least I won't) because he's been so effective at being a heel the right way. I respect him. I hate Cena. Bad decision, and extremely poor timing. It seems like the WWE is great at dropping jaws, but terrible at keeping them on the floor. You got our pants down with Cena's shocking early return...and in the process, you just blew two of the best things you had going for you. Now Orton's not the superheel, and Cena's return is busted. I see what you were thinking, but it's not going to work.
What is going to work is the Elimination Chamber at No Way Out, featuring Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, JBL, Jeff Hardy and Umaga. That's good stuff. Let's hope Orton beats Cena so we don't have to deal with anymore of this crap at WrestleMania. There are also reports today that, in the midst of the writer's strike, NBC is considering picking up Monday Night Raw. And in an unrelated but equally surreal idea, WWE is rumored to be contacting Britney Spears for a WrestleMania appearance. Even odds on whether she or Mike Tyson '98 is the most unpredictable WrestleMania experience.
Hey, you know that guy who's led the majors in wins, strikeouts and ERA for the last five seasons? ESPN is reporting that he's getting ready to be pitching in New York...for the Mets. Great. We'll take Tom Glavine off your hands, so you can replace his spot in the rotation with Johan Santana. Just great.