JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 6, 2014

Random ruminations while wondering whatever happened to Antoine Walker…

  • From these eyes, the USA World Cup soccer team and the Nashville Predators share some similarities, although in totally different sports.

    The Predators and Team USA both heavily rely on goalkeepers and defense. For the Predators, goalie Pekka Rinne is one of the NHL’s best at repelling shots on goal. And we saw in the 2-1 loss to Belgium what Tim Howard did. His 16 saves will be remembered as one of the best single game performance any World Cup goalkeeper could have.

    Both teams are defensive minded, but both teams understand the need to upgrade their offenses, which has been their Achilles’ heel against top competition.

    The Predators have already been proactive in that area, hiring new head coach Peter Laviolette, whose history on developing offensive-minded teams is widely known. They dipped in the free agent market for winger James Neal and veteran center Olli Jokinen. Neal has a lot of solid hockey left in the tank, but must be paired on a line with players that can set up shots for him.

    USA’s soccer team has four years to develop and/or sign potent goal-scorers. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been second-guessed for leaving Landon Donovan off the roster. Two of those players he bypassed Donovan for were Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski. It was Wondolowski who missed a golden opportunity to beat Belgium at the end of 90 minutes regulation. His shot was not at an opportune angle and he had the Belgian goalkeeper flying toward him. The kick sailed wide and it was nil-nil going into overtime.

    You have to have players that can bury that shot if a U.S. team is going to advance deeper in World Cup competition. Davis was a non-factor in the World Cup.

  • If Klinsmann returns as U.S. coach, he has four years to figure it out. They had a 1-1-1 record in group play this year, beating Ghana. In their game against Belgium, the Americans proved they still had a lot of heart and drive left when they trailed 2-0, normally an overwhelming hurdle to clear.

    The 2014 roster had three Germans and a Norwegian. The top American-born players go overseas to play professionally. The top athletes in our country that have played soccer as kids often choose other sports to play on the college and professional level. That’s because that is where the money and fame is.

    When I was working in the 1970s in Florida, I often heard parents and high school soccer coaches tell me that in 10-15 years, soccer would replace high school football in this country.

    Obviously, it hasn’t happened, but with the recent exposure that concussions have produced, I can see parents not wanting their sons to play football in high school.

    It’s a problem that is not going away.

  • Three longtime decorated sports writers will be inducted into this year’s class of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. The banquet is set for Thursday evening at Cumberland University.

    It just so happens these men are three of my closest friends in the business and all are highly deserving of the honor.

    Retired Tennessean sports writer/columnist Larry Woody grew up in Crossville and graduated from Belmont College. He was later drafted in the Army and served two years, including a year’s tour in Vietnam where he was a combat infantryman.

    Woody returned to the morning daily and covered high schools, the OVC, local and national auto racing, the SEC and NFL. He had the Vanderbilt beat and retired in 2007.

    John Adams is a sports columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. He was supposed to be inducted last year. He had knee replacement surgery complications and had to delay his induction until this week.

    Adams is a native of Clinton, La., and graduated from LSU. After a number of jobs in the business, he landed in Knoxville in 1987. He writes columns on Tennessee sports, as well as major sporting events such as Super Bowls, Masters, Kentucky Derby, Final Four, World Series and major college football bowls and national championship games.

    Roy Exum’s career was spent in his hometown of Chattanooga, where he ran the sports department for the Chattanooga News-Free Press, a paper his grandfather owned.

    He was the executive sports editor from 1970-1998, when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette purchased his paper. He was a frequent flier on the fabled Skywriters Tour, a group of writers, radio and TV journalists who flew into all the SEC teams prior to every season. He also covered all the major sporting events in the state and country. Exum still writes personal columns for

  • Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith was pleasantly shocked when UK athletics marketing department employees took him to see a billboard on New Circle Road in Lexington.

    It was a promotional billboard for the upcoming football season, whose theme is “Change the Game.’’ Smith was pictured on the billboard. After seeing it, he tweeted: “Man, I can’t wait ‘til my Mom sees this.’’

    Two years ago Smith was playing at East Mississippi CC. Last season, he recorded 59 tackles and had six sacks.

  • Florida, on the other hand, sent out a 2014 calendar that is leaving even Gator fans shaking their heads.

    Mr. July is none other than former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, currently being held without bail for allegedly murdering three men.

    Florida’s Twitter account offered this explanation: They said the school doesn’t do the calendar. It was a third party that produced the licensed product and it was likely approved prior to Hernandez first being charged with murder in June, 2013.

    Even if that is true, those inside Florida’s athletics department knew of Hernandez’s shady background when he was playing football there. If athletics director Jeremy Foley saw the calendar, it’s hard to believe he would sign off on it.

  • It is widely known that former Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker never lifted weights to shape his body. In high school at Wrightsville, Ga., Walker started doing hundreds of daily push-ups and sit-ups.

    Now 52 years old, Walker remains in top shape. He now does 3,000 sit-ups along with 1,500 push-ups and is still ripped.

    He has dabbled in other sports such as being a pusher for a 1992 Winter Olympics two-man bobsled team that finished seventh. He was also a black belt in tae-kwan-do, had two Mixed Martial Arts fights and performed in a ballet.

    Walker has been quoted as saying he could still play in the NFL, which is ridiculous to say the least. The only way he could make an NFL roster would be as a punter or kicker. I don’t see that happening. But he was the best college football player I ever saw that combined speed with power.

  • Why does any network keep showing us the Nathan’s Famous Hotdog eating contest at Coney Island on the Fourth of July?

    Statistics say the average American eats 91 hot dogs a year. I’m not even close to average and suspect others are in the same boat.

    If they crave some real drama, why not have a contest to see who can down the most numbers of another popular American staple – a peanut butter (chunky) and jelly sandwich.

  • I agree with retired columnist Dwight Lewis that this city needs to do more to honor the legendary Tennessee State University women’s track coach, Ed Temple.

    Temple never beat his own drum, but his Olympics record with the TSU Tigerbelle’s from 1950 to retirement is second to none. He built the program from scratch into a world power in women’s track and field.

    Lewis suggested that Ed Temple Boulevard be extended all the way along 28th Avenue North to West End Avenue. Mayor Karl Dean and the Metro Council need to turn the suggestion into reality.

  • Does any other sport besides soccer use nil when giving a score? Rather goofy, I say.

    Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s