John Clay

Gruden trumps Kornheiser on MNF

John Clay
John Clay

Random notes:

■ I love Jon Gruden. I love Tony Kornheiser. But when it comes to ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team, my love for Chucky trumps my love for Cranky.

Two exhibition games into replacing Kornheiser on the ESPN telecasts, Gruden is everything I expected him to be in the booth. He's excited. He's knowledgeable. He's a natural interacting with the film-addicted Ron Jaworski and the too-smooth Mike Tirico in ways that Kornheiser never could.

Example: Last week, Gruden poked fun at "Jaws," kidding the former Super Bowl quarterback that with Philadelphia signing Michael Vick, the NFL will sell more No. 7 jerseys the first week than it did in Jaworski's long career.

Monday night, during the Giants-Panthers game, Jaworski and Tirico wished Gruden a happy birthday, prompting an "I love you guys," from the former coach.

Tirico called it the quintessential Gruden, telling his players, "I love you guys."

Gruden, fired in Tampa Bay in part because of a near player revolt, said he had a new saying for his (former) players, one that wasn't suitable for TV.

As Gruden himself would say, that was awesome.

■ Speaking of Monday's exhibition game, for all the positive press he has generated in the New York Giants' camp, Andre Woodson turned in a weak performance. The former University of Kentucky quarterback tossed a bad interception. He nearly suffered another pick. He took an unneeded sack. He produced three points in five possessions, and the field goal was set up by a 29-yard Allen Patrick run. Fortunately for Woodson, the Giants have three more exhibition games.

■ James Paxton seemed long gone. UK's left-hander was a first-round selection in Major League Baseball's draft in June. A native of Ladner, British Columbia, he was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays. Surely a Canadian would sign with baseball's only team in Canada. No way he would return to UK for his senior season.

There was a way, it turns out. Tuesday's 12:01 a.m. deadline passed without Paxton's signature on a contract. Baseball America noticed Paxton's refusal and tabbed Toronto among its five biggest draft losers. Here in the states, UK baseball coach Gary Henderson is no doubt feeling like a winner.

■ Not-so-fun fact: Since the Southeastern Conference expanded in 1992, half of UK's 98 conference football losses have come against Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. The Cats are 2-49 against that trio. They are 36-49 against the rest of the league. Unfortunately, the Cats face Florida, Tennessee and Georgia each and every season.

■ The Oakland Fightin' Raiders coaching staff makes Hal Mumme's old staff seem like a band of brothers.

■ The best way to incite mockery was to tell a golf fan that (a) Tiger Woods would not win a major this year, and (b) the golf would be great, anyway. Both happened.

Kenny Perry's painful fold made the Masters memorable. Phil Mickelson's unsuccessful run under trying circumstances made the U.S. Open watchable. Tom Watson's amazing 71 holes at the British Open made the 72nd hole, and ensuing playoff, gut-wrenching. And who will forget Y.E. Yang's eagle on 14 that ultimately sent Woods home for the year without any major hardware?

■ Did you notice that UK is a 14-point favorite over a Miami (Ohio) team that went 2-10 in 2008? And did you notice that Charleston Southern, a foe on UK's 2010 schedule, is a 73-point underdog to Florida? That's right, 73 points.

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