Escondido, CA
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Unfettered and Unfiltered: Jim Tal’s Takes

With your permission and indulgence, allow me to brainstorm a bit and express some opinions on a variety of sports- related topics.

Sorry, but SDSU’s opening game 31-0 win over New Hampshire doesn’t even register. Beating up on a cupcake counts for next to zilch. We’ll find out a lot more about Rocky Long’s squad when they take on a legitimate team in Cal this coming Saturday.

Notre Dame has lost some heartbreak­ing high-profile road games over the last two-plus seasons. In 2014, the Irish fell to Florida State, last year both Clemson and Stanford nipped the Irish and then this past Sunday night, ND dropped a double-overtime squeaker to Texas. Each and every one of these games was there for the taking but the Domers failed to come through late. This pattern is hardly a positive reflection on head coach Brian Kelly’s ability to get his team to meet the moment. Moreover, the defense was a primary culprit in all of the aforemen­tioned setbacks. Against the Longhorns, ND was absolutely abysmal with its tackling and secondary coverage.

Right now, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is on a seat so hot, his butt is about to melt. Unless things get turned around in a hell of a hurry, BVG will soon be shown the door.

Despite her impressive run through this year’s U.S. Open, there’s no doubt that Caroline Wozniacki hasn’t fared anywhere near as well as her former beau Rory McIlroy since their celebrated breakup. Rory just picked his 20th ca­reer win when he stormed back from six strokes to cop the Deutsche Bank Cham­pionship. With his recent putting woes showing signs of being ironed out, Mc­Ilroy is poised to again assert his rightful place among the game’s super elite.

It truly bothers me that in the NFL certain guys keep getting chance after chance while others never even get a second opportunity. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is a classic case in point. It seems that no matter how many turn­overs he commits or promising situa­tions he blows, the ex-USC Trojan will always find a soft landing spot. His lat­est enablers are the Dallas Cowboys who must be desperate to find somebody, anybody, to back up rookie signal caller Dak Prescott. From my viewpoint, based on his lack of production, Sanchez is liv­ing a charmed life that I just don’t get. I mean, what does this guy have to offer? Oh wait, I forgot, he does have a nice head of hair.

Am I the only one that thinks that announcer Ted Leitner casts too large a shadow over the San Diego sports scene? As a broadcaster, he’s professional and rea­sonably solid but not even close to being superior or great. That’s why I’ve never understood why both the Padres and Az­tecs seem so wedded to the guy. Each of those organizations should have made it a point to have their own, singular play- by-play person with which the commu­nity could identify. This crossover and blending has become old and stale.

There are plenty of available announc­ers who could definitely match or exceed what Leitner brings to the table. And I’m willing to bet you that if the San Diego listening audience was canvassed, Leit­ner’s popularity wouldn’t exactly move the needle. It’s clearly time for a change. Let’s hope that in the near future, either the Pads or Aztecs thank Ted for his ser­vice and bring in a new voice. Hearing so much of Leitner can leave one tone deaf.

When it comes to the art of hitting and bringing an approach that works year af­ter year, few are better or more accom­plished than Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto. The dude can flat out rake while always having the discipline to stay within himself.

Yeah, I’m greatly biased and hardly objective but a fascinating read has just been published. Written by a treasured friend of mine, Richard “Dick” Lister, it is a go-to source if you are at all curi­ous about the thoughts, experiences and critical importance of NFL linemen. En­titled “The View from the O-line,” it’s chock full of insights, perspectives and entertaining anecdotes of both past and present standouts who know all about the rugged life in the trenches. These warriors upfront are a most interesting breed and “Dick,” along with the able assistance and input of acclaimed long­time coach Howard Mudd, make them come alive and resonate. If you should pick up this book, not only will your NFL knowledge expand exponentially but you’ll be thoroughly entertained in the process. Well done buddy, a splendid job.

Regardless of what you may think of 49er Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem and his recent assertions concerning race and police brutality — and I don’t think much of them since he speaks in nothing but uninformed generalities and without pre­cise specifics—what’s really surprising is that the organization is allowing this toxic situation to continue.

Kaepernick has become a monumen­tal distraction on the sidelines and the blowback from his actions reflect rath­er shamefully on the organization as a whole. If the dude finds it so offensive to have to stand, then the Niners should simply restrict him to the locker room until after the Anthem has been played and then allow him to take the field at that time. Yeah, he’ll still be a spectacle but the situation will be greatly diffused. Permitting him to either sit or kneel only serves to inflame the emotions of a vast majority of those in attendance.

And one thing’s for damn sure, af­ter this grandstand play, if Kaepernick doesn’t become a real activist who does some tangible good, both financially as well as contributing a significant amount of his time in the inner city, then his jer­sey shouldn’t reflect his name but rather a more fitting word, HYPOCRITE.

I’ve really been impressed by the head football coaches I’ve met and interacted with thus far at Escondido, Escondido Charter and Orange Glen high schools. Jud Bordman, Chris Bonta and Jason Patterson are all energetic, together and relatable mentors who have a definitive plan and appear to be men you’d relish playing for. In many ways, these three look to be great fits for their respective schools and I’d be quite surprised if each of them doesn’t experience genuine suc­cess.

The recent Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz MMA rematch was one of the most scintillating ebb-and-flow, mano-a-mano matches this writer has ever witnessed.

The most underrated and unappreci­ated sport in the world? Without a doubt, it’s jai alai. Its practitioners not only have phenomenal hand-eye coordina­tion but their sense of anticipation is off the charts. Not only can these guys move, they can scale a wall like a cat burglar and place shots with such speed and precision that it leaves you dumb­founded with admiration. Too bad this sport doesn’t have more of an imprint in U.S. outside of Florida because if it did, I truly feel it could catch on.

Look for the Toronto Maple Leafs to soon turn into one of the most excit­ing and dynamic teams in all of sports. Loaded with tremendous young talent primed to bloom, the Leafs have the po­tential to become a dynasty if things play out right. Within three years, the long- suffering Toronto fans will finally be able to celebrate the return of the Stanley Cup.

The Padres will be hard-pressed to reach just 70 wins this year. Anyway you slice it, that’s a dismal season. There’s a lot of talk about difference-makers in the minors but that’s all it is at this stage, wishful talk. Just observing from afar but I truly wonder if this club is actually trending in the right direction.

And finally, here’s a prediction: Char­ger linebacker Manti Te’o will build on his strong finish of 2015 and play at such a high level, he’ll merit Pro Bowl con­sideration.

You may now consider the brainstorm­ing to have ceased, at least temporarily. And if any of what’s been written here has elicited a reaction from you, I would greatly value your feedback.

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