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      The Year in Smack: Bat Flip, Goat, You Like That & Goodbye to the Ole Ball Coach

      The Year in Smack: Bat Flip, Goat, You Like That & Goodbye to the Ole Ball Coach

      Happy New Year! Another 365 has come and gone. Time to look back at the year in smack. Time to pay homage to those rare, few heroes of sports smack who really know how to talk the talk and demonstrated that skill with aplomb in 2015.

      Here are 10 memorable moments of shade and hard-core snark – and, of course, good, old-fashioned smack.

      (Editor’s note: We hated everything about Deflategate. Even typing that fake “word” hurts our fingers. There will be no mention of Deflategate or Tom Brady or the Patriots here. OK, no MORE mention of those things. SO OVER IT.)

      Joey Bat Flip
      The Blue Jays didn’t make it to the World Series, but slugger Jose Bautista sent Toronto into hysterics and the ALCS with a walk-off home run to end the division series against the Rangers. Joey Bats took a lot of heat for that demonstration of bravado, but it was classic smack and deserves a place on any list of iconic sports moments in 2015.

      Joey Bat-Flip

      You like that!
      The Redskins trailed the Buccaneers, 24-0, but roared back behind quarterback Kirk Cousins. Afterward, Cousins – who had operated in the shadow of RGIII for too long – became the voice of redemption when he yelled at Washington beat reporters – “You LIKE that! You like THAT!”

      Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Josh Norman.
      Giants-Panthers in Week 15 featured an NFL heavyweight battle – the best receiver in the league against one of the top, if not the top, cover corners in the game. It quickly devolved into a nasty brawl that landed Beckham a one-game suspension and Norman a hefty fine. MORE

      Johnny Rehab.
      The Browns drafted Johnny Manziel, then immediately began to mishandle the mercurial partier from Texas A&M. Johnny Football’s swagger demanded a starting role right out of college, but he instead had to sit and that idle time was not spent working in the film room. One of the off-season’s biggest story lines will be Johnny Football’s future – and the speculation will be sure to provide sweet smack fodder for many more months.

      Kevin Durant vs. Stephen A. Smith.
      The NBA All-Star from Oklahoma City and the loud-mouthed former sportswriter from Philly got into it publicly when Smith “reported” that Durant wanted a trade to the Lakers. Durant called Smith a liar. Smith responded with a weird, threatening declaration that Durant didn’t want to make an enemy out of him. So much sound. So much fury. So much smack. MORE

      MJ, GOAT.
      With aloof amusement, Michael Jordan observed the “emoji war” sparked by Chandler Parsons after DeAndre Jordan spurned the Dallas Mavericks to remain with the Clippers. While Chandler fooled around with his little airplane and others jumped in with their insipid foolishness, His Airness – one of the acknowledged Smack Zone Legends of Smack – ended the debate with his allusion to himself as the Greatest Of All Time:

      Jonathan Papelbon vs. Bryce Harper.
      The Nationals closer and MVP got into it in the dugout during a game. Who knows why? Something about a half-eaten sandwich, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, they fought like cats (not cats and dogs – cats), and later buried the hatchet.

      Kurt Busch vs. Trained Assassin.
      NASCAR nabob and former champion Kurt Busch went off the deep end in February when he publicly asserted that his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, was a trained assassin and shadow operative. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. But Busch is one weird dude, regardless. Either he dated a trained assassin and let it slide until they broke up, or he decided to publicly out a trained assassin – someone who could, by definition, kill him in his sleep with a Q-tip. Ain’t no smack like NASCAR smack!

      Chase Utley vs. Ruben Tejada.
      The Dodgers-Mets NLDS took an ugly turn when Utley plowed Tejada breaking up a double play, breaking Tejada’s leg and becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in NYC. This was physical smack that overnight transformed Utley into one of the most hated opponents in Mets history.

      The Head Ball Coach Suddenly Calls it Quits.
      Steve Spurrier, another of the Smack Zone Legends of Smack – the inspiration for the creation of Smack Apparel – left the South Carolina Gamecocks high and dry in the middle of the season. We appreciate the Ole Ball Coach orchestrating the perfect exit for one of sports’ best smack talkers of all time.

      Greased Pigs to Playoffs: The Evolution of College Bowl Games

      Greased Pigs to Playoffs: The Evolution of College Bowl Games

      By Bob D’Angelo, Smack Zone Cotributor

      And to think, the college bowl system that has evolved over the last century got its start with participants chasing greased pigs.

      It’s true. On January 1, 1890, members of the Valley Hunt Club paraded through the streets of Pasadena with flower-draped horse and buggies. It was the first Tournament of Roses parade, and soon after the pig chasing contests were introduced during ensuing years, officials found a better alternative to publicize the event.

      Pigskins, college football style.

      On New Year’s Day 1902, Michigan met Stanford at Tournament Park and cruised to a 49-0 victory. The college bowl system was born and would flourish until 1998, when the BCS system was implemented to determine a national champion. That has since been replaced by a four-team playoff, which will enter its second year in January.

      It’s true, bowl games before 1998 rarely matched the top two teams in the nation; between 1936 and 1992 (when the first bowl coalition began), the top two teams met eight times out of 57 seasons. And the advent of the BCS meant that No. 1 faced No. 2 thanks to an intricate system of human opinion and computerized fact.

      But there was something charming about the old bowl system. It was conceived as a reward for teams who excelled and won their conferences during the season. The bowls had locked-in conference ties. You knew the Rose Bowl would pit the winner of the Big Ten against the Pac-10 champion, and that one Sugar Bowl berth would be claimed by the Southeastern Conference titlist. The Orange Bowl normally featured the Big Eight champion, while the Cotton Bowl showcased the Southwest Conference winner.

      It also was rewarding for the teams and conferences represented in bowl games. Before the BCS, bowl revenue was shared only by the conferences playing in the game. So, if the SEC had a strong year and six teams went to bowl games, that was a huge boost to that conference’s balance sheet.

      Bowl games also were a huge financial lure for the cities that hosted them. Warm-weather venues were appealing to football teams and their fans, who longed for a mid-winter break from snow and bitter cold. Cities like Miami and New Orleans played up their warm, sunny climates to the hilt. Since the Orange Bowl had a tie-in with the Big Eight, that meant that schools from the upper Midwest would travel south in droves to fill up Miami’s hotels, eat at its restaurants and shop at its stores. It was a boon to the city’s economy, and bowl officials made sure the team (and its fans) had a great time.

      Other warm-weather cities followed suit, like Tampa (Outback Bowl); El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl); and Tempe, Arizona (Fiesta Bowl). Cuba even got into the act, hosting a game in Havana in 1937 between Auburn and Villanova in the appropriately named Bacardi Bowl.

      Bowl games provided teams a chance to bond and enjoy a nice vacation. Certainly, some teams were still in the hunt for a national title, but many were not and were eager to have a good time. Bowling outings, trips to tourist attractions and photo opportunities were commonplace.

      In December 1983, Iowa visited Jacksonville to face Florida in the Gator Bowl. The night before the game, Iowa hosted a dinner for players, fans, media and friends in the Jacksonville Coliseum. It was all the steak you can eat, and while no numbers were released, there was a lot of beef consumed that night.

      Sometimes, teams take a bowl game too seriously. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl, which pitted No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Penn State, was hyped as the “Duel in the Desert.” On the flight to Arizona, Hurricanes players changed into military-style fatigues to play up the “war” element of the game.

      The battle plan backfired, and Penn State won the game 14-10 to take the national title.

      Bowl games have had some great names, like the Raisin Bowl in Fresno, California; Tampa’s Cigar Bowl; the Camellia Bowl in Lafayette, Louisiana; and an all-time favorite in Phoenix — the Salad Bowl.

      The biggest weakness of bowl games were also a strength — the tie-in to conferences. Because of that, a No. 1 team from the Big Ten, for example, had to play in the Rose Bowl. And if No. 2 was not from the Pac-10, then a true, head-to-head national title game would not be played.

      That has changed now with the four-team playoff system. There are no more mythical national champions.

      But the bowl experience remains a strong one, a time for cities to show civic pride and tout their area.

      No more greased pig chases, though. And that’s a shame.

      Smack Zone Exclusive: Enlightening Page from USC Coach Steve Sarkisian's Playbook

      Smack Zone Exclusive: Enlightening Page from USC Coach Steve Sarkisian's Playbook

      In yet another example of ground-breaking journalism, Smack Zone staffers risked life and limb to attain this enlightening page from the Steve Sarkisian playbook.[/caption] Look, we don't want to make light of a man's alcohol problem. And clearly, Southern Cal football coach Steve Sarkisian has a very real alcohol problem. But we here in the Smack Zone central office take our public service role seriously. So, when our enterprising editorial staff acquired a top secret page from Sarkisian's playbook, we felt it was in the interest of Trojans and other college football fans throughout the land that we share this enlightening information. We wish Coach Sarkisian a long, healthy, happy recovery during his enforced, indefinite leave of absence. We also wish to offer the USC Trojans a sober wish of ... well, sobriety under interim coach Clay Helton.

      We're Talking About Practice

      College basketball season is almost upon us. That means it's time for the University of Kentucky to make another one-and-done run at the men's national title. And ESPNU was allllllll over it with a national cable broadcast of ... practice. Let us repeat that, just so we're clear: ESPNU carried live coverage of the University of Kentucky's men's basketball practice over the weekend. And a Louisville newspaper wrote an analysis of said broadcast/practice: Takeaways from UK's Live-TV Practice. If it was not apparent before, it is certainly beyond official now: The ESPN family of networks has WAY too much time on its hands. Because, seriously. We're talking about practice. University of Kentucky men's basketball practice, sure. But it was practice. Not a game. PRACTICE. [youtube]

      Longhorns Beat Oklahoma; Still Suck

      [caption id="attachment_1312" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Texas Longhorns Texas shocked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry Saturday, but all that did was raise the question: Where was that performance against everyone else? Smack Zone illustration: Steve Hill.[/caption] OK, we'll own it. We were wrong about the outcome of the Red River Rivalry. We incorrectly wrote off the Texas Longhorns, and they came out Saturday and put it on the Oklahoma Sooners, 24-17. Good job, Longhorns. You deserved to win and you can bask in the glory of another upset of your biggest rival. Too bad you still suck. What? You won, sure. Congratulations. You're 2-4, 1-2 in the Big 12. You still lost to Notre Dame and Texas Christian by a combined score of 88-10. Yes, Coach Charlie Strong body-surfed his way out of the Texas State Fairground Saturday, and his players could congratulate themselves for "winning one for Coach." That can work -- once or twice. College football is great because occasionally, the young men who strap it on can get motivated to play above their collective ability and shock the world. In the long run, though, talent defeats motivation. That's how the Longhorns used to win: They had better players than the other guys. Now? Not so much. Oh, and here is the bottom line when it comes to the Red River Rivalry: As long as victories by Texas are considered "upsets," the Longhorns are a long way away from their former national prominence.