First, a moment for Jose Fernandez, the extraordinary Marlins pitcher who died with two friends in a boating accident at age 24. There is no cautionary tale, no subliminal story, no stern lesson that needs to be taught, or learned – just a hideous tragedy done through cruel accident to a young man, his family and friends and compatriots. Sometimes the news is lousy just because it’s lousy, and people can acknowledge the loss without making it a teachable moment, save this:
Despite all the evidence we give each other every day, life is precious. Treat it like it matters. You want a teachable moment? Try this. Death stinks.
* * * * *
And now, today’s nonsense.
There are some serious surprises in this week’s Top 25 . . . well, there would be if not for the fact that I’m the only voter, and I have a very difficult time surprising myself, especially on something so monumentally subjective, silly and stupid.
But as we all know, you can’t spell The Top Twenty Five without subjective silly and stupid, and even if you can, don’t argue. As always, the parentheticals are actual record, record against the spread, and record against the total.
1. LOUISVILLE (4-0, 3-0-1, 4-0): A push? To Marshall? Let that be a lesson to us all – the job isn’t done until Las Vegas says it’s done.
2. VIN SCULLY (53-30): Would have been a runaway No. 1 if not for his seventh career mistake in 67 years and 10,000 some-odd games, referring to Derek Law as Derek Lowe while he was doing play-by-play on two games at the same time Thursday night.
3. THE MAC WEST (16-7, 17-6, 14-9): For understanding that if you have to be great at either the line or the total, pick the line. You help more people that way.
4. MICHIGAN (the state, not the school – 16-3, 14-5, 12-6): Dovetails a bit with the MAC West ranking, but if Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio doesn’t reorder his priorities, this rating will certainly drop.
5. COLORADO (3-1, 4-0, 3-1): Put a fork in Oregon, kids. You dress up like a flock of mallards, that’s what happens.
6. MICHIGAN (the school, not the state – 4-0, 3-1, 4-0): This is Jim Harbaugh’s Super Bowl year – two years from now, though, if the presumptions are right, Nirvana becomes Narnia and then Nowheresville, and every bit of it will be entertaining as hell.
7. STANFORD (3-0, 3-0, 0-3): David Shaw is going to market his team as The Home Of The Hideously Bad Beat – Come And Get Yours. Of course, anyone who bet UCLA under any circumstances deserves exactly what he or she has coming to them.
8. ALABAMA (4-0, 3-1, 2-2): Not letting the other team score is a bad way to cover that over, Nick. You know that by now.
9. VIN SCULLY (kind of appalling the way nobody is quite sure how many games he actually did in his career in an era in which counting things is our only remaining export): “For those of you who wonder what I will do, put it this way, I’m looking for a much smaller house, and a much larger medicine cabinet.”
10. MIAMI (3-0, 3-0, 2-1): Idle this week, and idle is always good.
11. BRIGHAM YOUNG (1-3, 4-0, 1-3): Now this is a team that understands what’s important.
12. BAYLOR (4-0, 1-3, 0-4): And here’s one that doesn’t – in oh so many ways.
13. YASIEL PUIG (54-43): Brightened a mostly crummy season by helping midwife the global battle cry “Don’t Look At Me” beyond its normal purview of fifth grade schoolyards.
14. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-0, 1-1-1, 2-1): This is a West Coast-heavy ranking week, and even though the Aztecs didn’t play and are mediocre against the line, they are still winning the Closest To The Hole competition by having come within 1½ points of the line after three games, an average of a hook a week. It’s good for the game.
15. VIN SCULLY (Failed to fill out his network bingo card by never having worked for Fox): “Jon Gray with the long hair. As a rookie, he had to dress up in a wedding gown. I'm sure he was lovely.” Baseball Reference has no data, but if Scully says he was sure, I’m sold. Jon Gray looked absolutely scrumptious.
16. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (0-4, 0-4, 1-3): Hit the over against Central Florida, which is as brazen a condemnation of the Central Florida program as its gets.
17. MEMPHIS (3-0, 2-1, 1-2): In the biggest line miss of the day, gave 17½ to Bowling Green and won by 74. The comforting thought for bookmakers, though, is that anyone who bet that game is almost certainly under medical supervision.
18. MISSOURI (2-2, 3-1, 3-1): The good news is, they gave 52½ to Nicholls and covered by 26½. The bad news is, they don’t play Nicholls again, and shouldn’t. Ever.
19. VIN SCULLY (just fewer than 100,000 innings called, the slacker): “You know every time I say ‘Georgia,’ I think of Ray Charles... doesn't it just break your heart the way (Ray) says, ‘Georgia’?”
20. EDUARDO NUNEZ (does it honestly matter?): For doing in 130 feet what Buster Posey could not in 10 – finding a foul popup at dusk and racing to catch in a game that, well, ended up featuring Derek Lowe’s . . . I mean, Derek Law’s first blown save. Damn It! See? Even the great ones can’t get that guy’s name right.
21. TOOMER’S CORNER (one tree down): Auburn beats LSU, fans throw toilet paper into the trees as required by tradition, one apparently angry (and likely drunk) fan sets toilet paper alight, tree goes up in flames. The SEC – Where Arson Happens.
22. TEAM USA (0-3): Nice job, nice work. Cheer up, Torts. That Columbus season will feel better than this.
23. CALIFORNIA (the school, not the state – 2-2, 2-2, 4-0): It took a lot to cover the over last night, but giving up 31 to Arizona State in the fourth quarter while not making the game drag past the four-hour mark will do that for you.
24. CALIFORNIA (the state, not the school – 13-13, 8-15-1, 13-10-1): The below-the-408 line record of 3-10-1 demands mass firings, and nothing less than that will do.
25. VIN SCULLY (5-2 win over Colorado): “That'll do it, you gotta be fed up tired with me. That's for sure . . . wish you all a very pleasant, good evening.” Not bloody likely, wise guy. Get back to work.
And until next week, as always, go away. But not before you spare another thought for Jose Fernandez and those whom he loved and loved him. Bad deal all around.