Alabama football is a juggernaut. I hate them, the way all juggernauts should be hated by their enemies, and I hope they lose the rest of their games and then get the NCAA death penalty when it turns out Nick Saban performs blood rituals in his dungeon. This, to me, would be ideal.
But I know it's not happening. The blood ritual stuff is definitely true, but as for losing games? No way. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions, and they've won every game this year by at least 22 points. In fact, only two of their wins have remained within 30 points. Nick Saban manages to gripe about something trivial after each blowout, but it's a hollow act—his team is barely legal. If there was any justice, they'd start every game down by 25.
There is zero doubt that Alabama deserves to be the no. 1 team in the nation. But when you look at the AP rankings from week seven, something interesting emerges: Of the 61 voters in the AP poll, there are two bona fide Bama haters! One is Keith Sargent of NJ Advanced Media. He's on the Rutgers beat, and for some reason he gives the nod to Ohio State, a team that definitely looks good, but barely eked out a one-point win at Penn State. (Amazingly, Sargent moved Ohio State over Bama only after that win.)
The other Bama hater, and by far the funniest, is Soren Petro of Sports Radio 810 in Leawood, KS. He has Alabama ranked third, which is impossible to read as anything but a brazen troll of a really annoying fan base. Even better, he had them third all the way back in the preseason, which means there is no point in 2018 at which he believed Alabama was the best team in college football. His number one? Clemson, who almost lost at home to Syracuse a week ago and barely beat the same Texas A&M team that Alabama waxed.
I don't know Soren Petro, and I don't know his motivations, but I like to believe he has a vendetta against Alabama, and he's carrying it out in his rankings. I do know this: He's trolling an entire state, and it's making people mad.
If I'm Soren Petro's branding consultant—and Soren, if you read this, I'm available—my advice would be to trigger Alabama fans in a big way by moving them down to no. 6 this week. He's missing a huge opportunity by bumping Ohio State and Notre Dame ahead of them. And hell, UCF is undefeated too—why not throw them in there too and knock the Crimson Tide down to seventh?
None of this stuff matters anyway, so count me in for more Soren Petro hilarity. Step aside, Nate Silver: I have a new favorite pollster.
Relief Pitcher of the Week: Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Imagine this: You are a relief pitcher in the National League, which means you almost never get to bat. In fact, you've only had 21 plate appearances in your entire professional career, and only managed three hits. Now suppose you're in the playoffs, and you're facing one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Worse, this pitcher is a lefty, and you bat lefty. There is nobody on base, so there's no good excuse to bunt—you have to swing away.
What do you do?
If you're Brandon Woodruff, you do this:
Let's put this in context: In the history of major league baseball, only three relief pitchers have ever hit a home run in the playoffs. It happened in 2016 with Travis Wood, and before that it had only been done by someone named Rosy Ryan (no relation, as far as I know) in 1924. None of them—zero—have been left-handed batters facing left-handed pitchers, which is the most favorable combination for pitchers in the sport. And of course, it's never happened against a pitcher of Clayton Kershaw's ability.
I also want to say this: It was an absolute shot. That was no cowardly pitcher home run, but a manly Ruthian blast.
The whole thing was incredibly unlikely. Factoring in the lefty-on-lefty split, it's just as rare as an American League pitcher hitting a home run in a World Series in the post-DH era. That, too, has only happened once, courtesy of Ken Holzman in 1974.
Brandon Woodruff is a king. He will probably live out his entire life as the only man to do this, and it's especially cool because his solo shot made the difference in a narrow 6-5 Brewers win. Go to Milwaukee and buy this man a Pabst.
Saddest PR Push of the Week: The Cleveland Cavaliers
The NBA regular season starts on Tuesday, which means it's a time for optimism all around the league. Even the terrible teams are trying to push the narrative that hey, maybe they'll be the surprise underdogs who win way more games than expected and grab the seven-seed before being blown out of the playoffs by an underachieving Warriors team! Hope abounds, except for the Knicks.
The saddest of the preseason PR campaigns, though, belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without LeBron, they are a nothing team. Nobody cares about them anymore, and nobody should. They have no chance to be better than the Celtics, Sixers, Raptors, or Bucks, and their absolute best case scenario is limping their mediocre to five-seed. Even that feels really unlikely.
But this post-Lebron malaise hasn't stopped them from pretending to be optimistic. Here's Tristan Thompson:
"We're a playoff team - that's realistic...everyone that says playoffs is overachieving doesn't know our squad and doesn't believe in our squad...we just have to go out there, be ourselves and prove the naysayers wrong, which we will."
Here's Kevin Love, spinning the loss of LeBron as a good thing:
"Losing the best player in the world, we're going to have a fresh start...We have first- and second-year guys who have to make an impact, and then veteran guys who have playoff experience under their belt."
I get why they have to say this, and to some extent why they have to believe it, but it's still depressing. They are the "this is fine" dogs of the sports world.
The High Anxiety, Joyless Human of the Week: Me
Last week, I wrote about how the Red Sox were in the sport's most unenviable position, having given up home field advantage in a five-game series despite being the best team in baseball during the regular season. It could all blow up so fast, I said, with a winking nod to the fact that I was a Yankees fan.
Then the Red Sox obliterated my team in Game 3, and sealed the deal a game later. Clearly, I am an idiot. But I'm going to use my powers of idiot for good, and predict that the Red Sox will surely dominate Houston and coast into the World Series. This is not a jinx. Not at all.
The "Cancel Their Sport, It's All Over" Athlete of the Week: Simone Biles
I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be a vault expert, but this brand new, never-been-done-in-women's-gymnastics vault looks cool as hell:
This is apparently a really big deal, and one thing I do know about gymnastics is that a huge part of scoring is based on the degree of difficulty. Biles' vault was so next level that in order not to win the gold medal at the world championships or the Tokyo Olympics, she would essentially have to slip on the vaulting board and land head-first in the crowd. Even then, she'd probably take bronze.