THE THREAD [06.15.08] :: Happy Endings

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It ends tonight. Or this morning. Or whenever you read this. This is the last daily edition of The Thread for 2008. C&F will now grab South Carolina stories individually or in a brief combined post and run out a full post on a non-Gamecock story every now and then. And busy days could prompt a return of The Thread.

But it's time to focus on previews and the season ahead, and July 15, six weeksish ahead of the beginning of the regular season and a nice, round number to boot, seems as good a time as any to hang it up for the summer.

This is not to say there won't be a daily post. Indeed, there will. C&F still has to preview the running backs and offensive line, the wide receivers and tight ends, the defense, special teams and each of South Carolina's opponents. Plus all the national and conference preview stuff. This blog will be busy over the next several weeks, just not with The Thread.

So in short, dear reader, this means more football previews for you and fewer attempts at wit by your humble correspondent. Well, at least in the form of The Thread.

Enough about all that.

Hooray for wooden bats! In fact, that might be exactly what DeAngelo Mack is saying after playing in the Cape Cod League, where he's tearing things up, Obley says.

Currently, he's batting .309 with a .374 on-base percentage in 25 games for Yarmouth-Dennis. [C&F: Why can't the SEC have teams named Yarmouth-Dennis?] ...

"Before I came up here, I was striking out too much and I've been trying to improve on that," Mack said. "I'm trying not to have such a big swing, to trust my hands and put it in play." ...

Since Mack is likely to be an important part of the Gamecocks' offense next year, it's good to see he's getting some of the kinks worked out. Now if only he could bring the wooden bats back.

Okay, okay, C&F won't get ahead of himself.

Unruly in Athens. Not the football players. All the students, according to the AJC, though that's not the point the the homer paper (and yes, it is) was trying to make.

Including walk-ons, there are 105 players on Georgia's football team. So the seven players arrested constitute 6.7 percent of the group. That percentage rises to 8.2 if the group is narrowed to the 85 scholarship players (all the arrestees are on scholarship).

According to UGA police records, its officers arrested 1,308 students in 2007. That represents 5.2 percent of the undergraduate enrollment (25,144) or 3.8 percent of the total enrollment (33,831).

That number does not include students arrested by Athens-Clarke County police, which theoretically should be far greater. A-CC police could not immediately provide a breakdown of arrests that would indicate how many were students. But police department spokesperson Hilda Sorrow acknowledged, "it would be logical to think" local police arrest far more students than UGA police because of all the restaurants and bars downtown that the students frequent.

So, let's look at this a minute. If the UGA police force arrests 5.2 percent of undergrads -- the fairest comparison, since the vast majority of football players are undergrads -- and the A-CC police arrest a "far greater" number, then it is logical assume that north of 10 percent and perhaps as great a proportion as 15 percent of UGA students are arrested.

Now we know where Georgia's reputation as a party school comes from.

That said, there's a more serious and critical difference between players and "normal" sutdents.

Indeed, Georgia has one of the most comprehensive conduct codes around for its athletes. A 91-page handbook outlines the rules and provides disciplinary guidelines for coaches and administrators.

And Southerland said they get no shortage of reminders throughout the year. Every player must attend a mandatory drug and alcohol awareness seminar the first week of preseason camp. During the season they meet weekly with volunteer coach Bobby Lankford, who coordinates what is called the "character-education program." Speakers, ranging from former players to police officers and judges, talk to the team periodically about the pitfalls of disobeying the law.

The players get tons of support that run-of-the-mill students don't. Their numbers should be lower.

Oh, and if C&F is going to get in a fight with someone, he'd much rather take on a journalism major than a 300-pound offensive lineman. 

The SEC Network is dead. Long live the SEC Network. Florida has signed its own mega-deal with Fox, leading some to believe that the SEC-CBS-ESPN re-up rumors are true and the SEC Net is, for now, dead.

While the deal itself would not preclude the SEC from creating a channel, its timing, just weeks before the conference picks its new TV partners, suggests that such a channel is unlikely. ...

The new TV agreements are expected to double the SEC's revenue from its previous contracts, another reason why the conference is not expected to pursue its own network.

The deal between Florida and Sun Sports "could be an indicator that an SEC network is no longer in play," said one TV analyst, who asked not to be identified. "The timing certainly is interesting, isn't it?"  ...

If the SEC decided to move forward with a network, it still could claim the Gators' local TV rights, but it's not likely that Florida, Sun Sports and IMG College would finalize such a landmark deal if it might require changes in a month.

The nonexistent betting man in C&F would go with "not this year, and likely not next." But it's hard to believe that the SEC would put off setting up its own network for a decade, given the possibility that the Pac-10, Big XII or ACC could all conceivably support a regional network. (Big East, not so much.) One of those nets could be announced in the next two years, prompting the SEC to move.

Besides, when have you ever known Mike Slive, or any other SEC commissioner, to say no to MONEY.

Next up: A professorship. EDSBS has C&F's visiting lecturer post on the Gamecocks up. Thanks as always to Orson/Spencer, who has been particularly kind to C&F the last couple of weeks.

Finally, a note. You will not hear much about who won the HR Derby held Monday night, and C&F thinks Justin Morneau will understand. Because, as the first round of the derby came to a close, it was clear that the main event had already been played.

Josh Hamilton, a player who has almost literally been to hell and back, smashed the previous first-round record by clobbering 28 long balls in his 10 outs. To put that in perspective, current MLB season leader Ryan Howard has 28 home runs. In the first 96 games.

Hamilton is one of those "stories" ESPN likes to shove in front of us, but he's the real deal. He almost allowed substance abuse to destroy what has become one of the most promising careers in the majors. And then he decided not to, crawled out of his hole, and created one of the most memorable baseball moments not connected to a meaningful game.

To those who say that sports are not important, this is their answer: Because every once in a while, someone like Josh Hamilton comes along and shows us all what one determined individual can do when he gets a lot of help from his fellow man, and especially from (Hamilton would tell you this quicker than anyone) God.

Every once in a while, a Josh Hamilton shows us what we all can do.

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Yes, this matters.

Earlier Monday afternoon, Hamilton shared a dream he had in 2006, when he had no right to ever expect to be in the majors at all, that he was participating in the HR Derby on one of baseball's greatest stages, Yankee Stadium.

In the dream, he never found out how many home runs he hit.

On Monday night, he found out, and he let us all share in the conclusion.

We are better for it.

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