Greg Cote: As point spreads expand, sportsmanship shrinks

09/22/2013 12:57 AM

09/22/2013 1:38 AM

This could have actually happened. The 16th-ranked Miami Hurricanes could have beaten visiting Savannah State by, say, 61-3 on Saturday night and, somewhere, a losing bettor would have been cursing UM and coach Al Golden for whatever smidgen of mercy might have been evident even in such a rout.

See, Miami was favored by 60 points (no, seriously), so anybody betting the Canes to win by more than that amount (to “cover”) wanted nothing of sportsmanship. You didn’t want backups, you wanted blood.

Savannah State has made quite a cottage industry of selling itself as a punching bag. Last year, the Tigers lost to Oklahoma State 84-0 and to Florida State 55-0 — the latter score kept down only because the game was called by lightning in the third quarter, the bolts cast by a merciful God (or one who’d bet the under).

This time it was Miami’s turn to be firm yet gentle with an opponent that is 18-104 since 2002 and has no business sharing a field with major college powers. They do it for money, of course. Savannah State cleared about $350,000 from this trip, a major chunk of its annual budget.

UM in turn gets a stats-padding, polls-pleasing victory and a chance for reserves to play.

FIU was in a similar spot Saturday, but on the wrong end, a 42 1/2-point underdog at No. 7 Louisville.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins face a typical NFL alley fight Sunday, thrilled to win by one point. (No Savannah States work Sundays although the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting there.)

College football demeans itself when the betting point spreads climb into the 40s, 50s, 60s and even beyond. You don’t see such hopeless long-shots anywhere else.

Well, I’m not counting that one time one of my Random Evidence notes columns accidentally was submitted to the Pulitzer Prize judging committee.

•  Floyd Mayweather easily beat Canelo Alvarez in last week’s big fight in Vegas, but one judge, C.J. Ross, drew ridicule for scoring it a draw. (I hear Ross also had Savannah State ahead on points Saturday.)
• Congratulations to LeBron James on his marriage and I hope he and his new bride enjoy my gift, a lovely toaster. (This just in: Savannah Brinson is an opening-line, 34-point favorite over Savannah State.)
• Heat owner Micky Arison and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross rank among the 100 wealthiest Americans at $5.9 billion and $4.8 billion, respectively. Um, Steve, best to keep that quiet as you make another stab at public tax dollars for your stadium improvements.
• Miami is bidding to host the January 2017 college football national championship game. Is that too soon, Al Golden? Not trying to place undo pressure or hurry you or anything.
• FIU football was 0-3 and outscored 115-23 facing another clobbering Saturday by Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater. If fired coach Mario Cristobal isn’t smiling, well, he probably should be.
• The Dodgers and Red Sox became the first teams to clinch playoff berths. But that was one day after the Marlins clinched last place in the NL East again. So we did beat ’em at that!
•  Diana Nyad defends herself against doubts about her record Cuba-to-Key-West swim. The latest: A grainy Zapruder film appears to show Nyad traversing the straits on a chaise lounge aboard a cruise ship.

The modern, lesser incarnations of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and New York Cosmos met Saturday at Lockhart Stadium for first time since 1983. I’d rather watch the originals play. I mean now, with all the guys in their 50s or older.

The Texans’ Arian Foster admitted he got paid while playing at Tennessee. OK, this is getting ridiculous. Let’s start assuming all college football players get paid and make it newsworthy only if they don’t.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu agreed to get his first haircut in a decade, for charity. Based on what I’ve seen of Pittsburgh’s first two games, his team would rather he agreed to get his first interception.

• The Browns traded away top running back Trent Richardson. Cleveland fans normally don’t give up on the NFL playoffs until mid-October but can beat the rush this season.
• A shoulder injury will sideline Mark Sanchez an estimated eight weeks. “Ah, let’s be safe and make it 10 to 12,” suggested Jets fans.
• A Russian football team called Moscow Black Storm has offered Tim Tebow million to play two games. That reminds me of the old saying: “Throwing good money after bad quarterback.”
• WNBA playoffs have begun and include Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, a Miami native, and Atlanta’s Ruth Riley, a 2001 top draft pick of the short-lived Miami Sol. Hey, that’s two more reasons to watch than you had before!
• Update:. ESPN still reporting that LeBron has no idea what will happen in the summer of 2014.

As the Heat prepares to open training camp Oct. 1, TNT’s Steve Kerr says Miami will not win a third consecutive title. Kerr is best known as a career-long reserve who won five rings on the coattails of others.

• It was reported this week the Heat’s Chris “Birdman” Andersen, while playing in Denver, was the victim of an Internet hoax involving a woman. No, wiseguy, her name was not Lennay Kekua.
• America’s Cup sailing is getting intense as the U.S. tries to stay alive against New Zealand’s huge lead. Cannot confirm, but somebody told me a U.S. Navy destroyer just sank the Kiwis’ catamaran.
• Intentional crashes affecting race outcomes give NASCAR a credibility crisis as its Chase for the Cup continues. Makes sense, though. If there were a recipe for road rage, I’d make it macho men who don’t like each other driving 180 mph.
• Redefining “sad but true,” an ESPN survey of 1,000 fans named Alex Rodriguez the “face of baseball” in 2013.
• On eBay you can buy authenticated Jim Palmer-signed underwear that he modeled for Jockey in the ‘70s. Is there a worse job in America than being in charge of “authenticating” 40-year-old underwear?ispaniPanispaniPan
• The Harlem Globetrotters are for sale. Assets include that pail that you think is full of water but actually only contains confetti!
•  Parting thought: Could someone please wake the NCAA and remind them Miami is still awaiting a final decision? You know how Job, from the Bible, was famous for patience? Job never met Mark Emmert.

Visit Greg’s Random Evidence of a Cluttered Blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote, Instagram/upsetbird, Vine/Greg Cote and Facebook/Greg Cote.

About Greg Cote

Greg Cote

@gregcote

Greg Cote has been a Miami Herald sports columnist since 1995 and also writes the Random Evidence blog and NFL predictions along with his notorious sidekick the Upset Bird. He has covered Hurricanes football (1984-88), the Dolphins (1990-91) and major events including Super Bowls, NBA Finals, World Series, Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Cup.

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