Lots of Sports Gravy To Go With That Turkey
December 1, 2014

It's been like this for years. NFL football owns Thanksgiving Day, but college football pulls out all of the best rivalry stops for the rest of the weekend. There's some college hoop tournaments in there too, baseball even makes some off-season noise, while the NBA just waits for Christmas Day for their showcase.

I don't know if the league wants it this way or not, but the Thanksgiving games to me were just to have on in the background. Detroit and Dallas always host, and I'm not a fan of either club. A Cowboys loss would always be good, so the score is always worth checking while visiting with the relatives. If you get a cold weather game, that makes it better, but when all three games are blowouts like they were this year, it just adds to the living room conversation for those who aren't busy in the kitchen. In case you missed it, Detroit beat Chicago 34-17, Dallas got pummeled by Philadelphia 33-10, and even though we watched the first half before dinner, paused it, and watched the second half after pumpkin pie, the Niners lost a yawner to Seattle 19-3.

Friday was a light day on the sports calendar, and if you watched the Stanford-UCLA game the Bruins looked like they overdosed on tryptophan the day before. The Bruins lost the game, a Pac-12 title berth, and their very slim hopes of a national championhip 31-10 at home to Stanford. Ironically, Bruins fans could turn to the Arizona-Arizona State game to see who would go the Pac-12 Championship game instead. U of A won 42-35.

College football on Saturday was a different matter. Mom gets the SEC Network, so I got to see most of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game (which Tech won in overtime) instead of a not-so-good edition of Michigan-Ohio State. Those were the early games, followed at 12:30 by three good matchups at the same time. CBS had Mississippi-Mississippi State, ESPN had Florida-Florida State, and Fox offered up Notre Dame-USC. That was a turkey, though—the Trojans led 35-0 at halftime and won 49-14, but the other games lived up to the hype. Ole Miss knocked their in-state rival out of a national championship playoff, and Florida State somehow remained unbeaten—hanging on to beat the Gators 24-19. When those were over, you had the Iron Bowl (Alabama 55, Auburn 44) on ESPN and Oregon throttling Oregon State on ABC. Not a bad slate.

Basketball and hockey mostly took a back seat, but baseball didn't. Even though the season is over, it was announced on Friday that the Oakland A's traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie just days after Giants hot-cornerman Pablo Sandoval decided to sign with the Red Sox, and the Dodgers also lost Hanley Ramirez to Beantown. Baseball's Winter Meetings are in San Diego next week, so you can expect a lot more deals to be made now that we are into December.

So, busy with the family on Thursday with the occasional check of an NFL blowout, a couple of football games Friday (even though UCLA lost) followed by more time with the relatives, a day of sports Saturday, followed by an early trip home Sunday and more NFL. Not a bad way to spend a weekend, and even the National Football League, lousy Thursday games and all, would have to agree.

Cross-flexing 101: Did you notice that all six teams that played on Thanksgiving Day were from the NFC? You had Chicago-Detroit, then Philadelphia-Dallas, and Seattle-San Francisco. This is made possible by new terms in the NFL's television deal called 'cross flexing'. CBS has the contract for AFC games, but is now permitted to take an occasional NFC game from Fox if the game would reach more markets. CBS did it the previous week by carrying the Washington-San Francisco game. In years past, since Dallas and Detroit (which always host Thanksgiving Day games) are in the NFC, one AFC team would be needed for one of the two games to be on CBS. Make sense? Not to me, either.

Oh, the irony: This is the 20th season that Los Angeles has been without an NFL team, and this weekend, its two former franchises faced each other. The St. Louis Rams destroyed the Oakland Raiders 52-0, but the game was not televised in LA. The City of Angels got San Diego-Baltimore instead, which the Chargers won 34-33. The Rams left Anaheim, and the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.

You're looking (a)live: Nice of ESPN to dust off Brent Musberger for the Auburn-Alabama game. The network removed him from the ABC prime time games this season and stashed him on the new SEC Network. Musberger's partner this year is Jesse Palmer instead of Kirk Herbstriet, who now does the ABC games with Chris Fowler. I missed Musberger, except when he would call his former partner 'Herbie'.

Gold Sox in Hot Stove: During baseball's offseason, you'll hear terms like 'Rule 5 Draft', 'non-tendered', and 'outright waivers'. All three currently apply to Gold Sox alumni in pro baseball. The Houston Astros currently have four catchers on their 40-man roster, and are likely to move at least one, if not two of them. Jason Castro is the main guy, but will be a free agent after this coming year and could be traded. If the Astros non-tender (don't offer him a contract because he is arbitration eligible) backup Carlos Corporan, he would become a free agent immediately. Former Angels catcher Hank Conger was recently acquired in a trade, and would likely stay, but is also due to be a free agent in 2015. That leaves Sox alum and Yuba City native Max Stassi, who seems likely to be in a big league uniform to start next season, either in Houston or elsewhere. “We've got four catchers on the roster and we like all four of them”, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told, “and all four can play in the major leagues right now, so that's a good spot to be in.” The deadline to 'tender' contracts to arbitration-eligible players is midnight Eastern tomorrow...Despite a bad year at Double-A, 2011 Horizon Air Summer Series top prospect Cody Anderson (5-1, 1.01 ERA with Gold Sox that year) was added to Cleveland's 40-man roster to protect him from next week's Rule 5 draft. The draft allows other teams to pick up players that might otherwise languish in the minors despite being on the verge of big-league ready. Scouts, writers, and fans seem skeptical that Anderson would be selected in the draft, but he is a power arm, and one of the team's top prospects...The Houston Astros did not keep pitcher Anthony Bass on their 40-man roster, and 'outrighted' him to Triple-A. Bass has enough service time that he could have refused the demotion and become a free agent, but all indications are he has accepted the assignment and will try to make the big club out of spring training.

Classy Stassi: When he was 18, Max Stassi started what he calls 'Homers for the Hungry', where he would essentially hold a one-man home run derby at Yuba City High, get pledges for each homer hit, and donate the money to area food banks. Now 23, Max this year added his older brother Brock (a Gold Sox alum and Phillies minor leaguer) and area high school athletes to take part. Stassi tweeted tonight that between donations, pledges, and raffle prizes, he raised $20,896.08 from this year's event held on Saturday.

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