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The Arts Blog

April 7, 2017

Oscars Rules Change for Animation, Documentary

By micah_smith

Several major changes are in store for the upcoming 90th Academy Awards following a meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Board of Governors on Tuesday, March 28.

April 7, 2017

Peterson to Visit the Saints

By bryanflynn

No one can say the New Orleans Saints are standing pat after three straight 7-9 seasons. This offseason, the Saints have been busy exploring options, making deals and bringing in players for meetings.

New Orleans will be hosting another high-profile player on Monday, April 10, when former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson comes for a visit. Peterson hit the free-agent market when the Vikings decided not to pick up his $18-million option in February.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks have already met with the running back. At this late stage of free agency, it doesn’t hurt to kick the tires on the 32-year-old future Hall of Famer.

Peterson missed most of last season with injuries and most of the 2014 season suspended due to legal issues. Sandwiched in between those years, the 2015 season saw him rush for 1,485 yards, leading the league in rushing.

Peterson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven of his 10 seasons in the NFL and rushed for double-digit touchdowns in eight of those. He failed to reach the end zone in 2014 and 2016, however, and rushed for a grand total of 149 yards those two seasons. New Orleans will have to decide if they would be getting the 2015 version of Peterson or the injury-prone 2016 version.

It is no secret that running backs begin to decline after reaching age 30 in the NFL. Peterson is known to keep himself in great shape and once recovered from an ACL tear during the 2011 season to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012, winning league MVP honors. It isn’t out of the question for the running back to produce another bounce-back year for whichever team he signs with in 2017.

New Orleans currently features Mark Ingram as its No. 1 running back. The 27 year old rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season. It was just the second time in his career that he played in all 16 games, and he is still under contract for two more years.

If the Saints are going to sign Peterson, the team might have to change its offense. Both running backs are better when they get 20 or more carries in a game. That means that New Orleans must not rely on quarterback Drew Brees to carry the whole offense.

New Orleans will have to become a “run first” team if it signs the former Viking. Otherwise, the team is just wasting money on a big-name player when it still has a slight opening for a deep playoff run.

Ingram and Peterson would be a great one-two punch at the running-back position, but neither has been a major part of the passing game. New Orleans would have to make sure that it has a third-down-pass catching back. Peterson has also never been good at pass blocking during his career.

There are plenty ...

April 6, 2017

Jackson One of 11 Cities for Pelicans’ D-League Team

By bryanflynn

Finding ways to develop talent is one of the most important aspects of running a winning team. The teams that are better at discovering and building up young players are normally the best in their leagues.

Major league baseball uses the minor league to do that through the farm system, which gives players a place to get game experience as they hone their craft.

In basketball, the NBA began the D-League, or Developmental League, in the 2001-2002 season. It will be called the NBA Gatorade League, or NBA G-League, starting next season.

The D-League currently has 22 teams, all of which are affiliated with a single NBA team. That pro team either fully owns and operates its D-League outfit, or the developing team has a hybrid ownership in which the an NBA team funds and manages it, but local ownership controls business and manages community relations.

The Memphis Grizzlies purchased an expansion franchise in January that is set to begin play next season in Southaven, Miss. Memphis is one of five teams that has launched an expansion team or bought an existing D-League team.

On Friday, March 31, the New Orleans Pelicans announced their intentions to start an expansion team, as well. Pelicans owner Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, will own and operate the D-League team, which will begin play in the 2018-2019 season.

New Orleans sent a Request for Proposal, or RFP, to 11 Gulf Coast-region cities, which the Pelicans and the NBA selected based on market research.

Of those 11 cities, seven are based in Louisiana (Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, Shreveport and St. Tammany Parish), two are in Mississippi (Biloxi and Jackson), one is in Alabama (Mobile), and one is in Florida (Pensacola).

New Orleans starting a D-League team means it can call up players from that team and get them players on the same day. Players will learn the same plays that the Pelicans use, as well, meaning that they won’t have to learn a new playbook when they are called up.

The Pelicans can use its D-League affiliate to develop draft picks that need more playing time before joining the NBA team. It also allows the team to expand its fan base outside of New Orleans.

Jackson makes perfect sense for a team looking to widen its reach. New Orleans Saints fans are numerous around the capital city, but there doesn’t seem to be one NBA team that a majority of Jacksonians root for each season.

New Orleans can build a fan base in Jackson that will be as loyal to the Pelicans as it is to the Saints. Fans in Central Mississippi never stopped loving the Saints no matter how terrible the team happened to be during the season. These same fans could be just as loyal to the Pelicans.

April 5, 2017

M-Braves Begin Season on Thursday

By bryanflynn

When the Atlanta Braves owned the National League back in the early 1990s to mid-2000s, the team dominated with starting pitching. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and others helped the club win its division from 1991 to 2005.

The Braves set a MLB record after winning their division 14-straight times. Not even the great New York Yankees match that record.

Since that epic run of division titles came to an end, the Braves have reached the postseason three times but haven’t won a postseason series, and finished in first place just once. Last season, Atlanta finished in last place in the NL East.

There is plenty of hope for the team, and that hopes begins with its farm system. The Braves are stacked with talent working its way up to the majors.

Last season the Braves’ farm system showed why it could be the start of stocking Atlanta with talent for years to come. The Rome Braves, in Rome, Ga., won the 2016 South Atlantic League Championship at the Low-A level. At the Triple-A level, the Gwinnett Braves, in Gwinnett County, Ga., reached the championship series in the International League, and the Mississippi Braves of the Double-A level reached the championship series of the Southern League.

In 2016, the M-Braves finished 39-30 as the team earned a playoff spot. The M-Braves defeated Pensacola 3-1 in the semifinals. In the finals, the Jackson Generals defeated the club 3-1 and took the championship.

It is safe to say that this year’s club at Trustmark Park will feature plenty of talent. The 2017 M-Braves feature four of the top-10 prospects in the Atlanta farm system, Baseball America says.

Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka are the No. 3 prospect and No. 4 prospects in the Braves’ farm system. Both are 19-year-old pitchers selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, and Allard left-handed.

Patrick Weigel is the No. 9 prospect who split time between Rome and the M-Braves last season. Weigel is 22 years old, and his 11 wins last season were second in the Braves’ minor-league system.

Max Fried is the No. 10 prospect in the Braves’ farm system. The 23-year-old spent last season in Rome. The Braves acquired him in a trade with San Diego in December 2014.

The M-Braves welcome 2016 High-A level Player of the Year in Keith Curcio and Pitcher of the Year Matt Withrow, respectively. Both players spent last season playing for the Carolina Mudcats in the Carolina League.

As the season begins, the M-Braves’ roster features 16 players taken in the first nine rounds of their respective drafts, and six former first-round draft picks. The roster includes eight players who spent last season in Rome, and 16 players who spent time in Pearl.

The M-Braves open the 2017 season with a five-game homestand beginning Thursday, April 6, against the Jacksonville ...

Food Blog

April 5, 2017

A Light in April

By amber_helsel

Chef John Currence is hosting an event in Jackson, the "Light in April" fundraiser for his organization, Move on Up, Mississippi. Here is information about the event from a press release, verbatim.*

Chef John Currence is proud to announce the incredible all-star lineup for the second annual “Light In April” fundraiser for his foundation, Move on Up, Mississippi. Founded in 2015, Move on Up inspires and funds educational youth initiatives focused on heath, well-being, and physical activity in Mississippi. “It’s time to take the fact that Mississippi shows up at the bottom of every annual list published and do something about it,” says Currence. “It is no laughing matter we continue to bring up the rear. We can make change, if we put our minds to it.”

For its second year, Light In April is thrilled to open its doors wider to the public. Taking place over two days (April 7-8, 2017),Light in April will consist of three events, including the “Mexissippi Supper” a ticketed event on Friday evening featuring top chefs from across Mississippi. Each chef will prepare a tasting portion of a Latin-inspired dish for the event, celebrating the Mexican-American men and women without whom we could not operate. The fundraiser will continue Saturday morning with a 5K race open to the public by registration, and the opportunity to enjoy a private dinner party courtesy of the visiting chefs from the Mexissippi Supper. Proceeds from each event will benefit Move on Up Mississippi, driving a healthier future for the children of Mississippi.

Mexissippi Supper:

DATE: Friday April 7, 2017

TIME: 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM (Doors Open at 7:00PM)

WHERE: The Pavilion, Corner of University Avenue and Bramlett Blvd., Oxford, MS 38655

ABOUT: The roster of Mississippi chefs participating in this event include Josh Belenchia of Buon Cibo in Hernando, David Crews of Delta Supper Club in Cleveland, Marco D’Emidio of Saint Leo in Oxford, Cole Ellis of Delta Meat Market in Cleveland, Corbin Evans of Canoodle by Oxford Canteen in Oxford, Michael Greenhill of Walker's Drive In of Jackson, Joel Miller of The Ravine in Oxford, Alex Perry of Vestige in Ocean Springs, Meredith Pittman of CAET in Jackson, Nick Reppond of GRIT in Taylor, Robert Rushton of Local 463 Urban Kitchen in Madison, Ty Thames of Restaurant Tyler in Starkville, and Payton Warren of Seafood Revolution in Ridgeland. Each will prepare a tasting portion of a Latin-inspired dish for the event.


TICKET PRICE: $55 For General Public

Breakfast of Champions 5K & Kids Superhero Fun Run

DATE: Saturday April 8, 2017

TIME: 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM

WHERE: Big Bad Breakfast Parking Lot, 719 N. Lamar Blvd, Oxford, MS 38655

ABOUT: Saturday morning, the public is invited to put on their running shoes and compete for the title of “Big Cheese” and “Big Cheesette” in the Breakfast of Champions 5K Race. A Superhero Fun Run will take place for kids 12 and under. Immediately following the race, ...

April 4, 2017

Bulldogs and Rebels Play Spring Game This Weekend

By bryanflynn

College football lasts almost a year long, with the season starting in September, bowl games in December and January, national signing day in early February, spring practice in March and spring games in April.

National signing day in college football has been a major deal to fans for a while now, and even the players have gotten in on the spectacle. The fans’ obsession with college football means knowing the recruits a school wants to sign, following them on social media and hoping that recruit does sign with their school.

But college football fans have a new obsession: The spring game is becoming a major way to tell which team has major expectations for the upcoming season.

Ohio State University ended up with more than 100,000 fans at a glorified practice during its spring game last year, and the University of Georgia packed more than 90,000 fans into the stands for its spring game.

As more fans are making the trip to see the games, it comes as no surprise that ESPN would get in on the deal. Just this month, the network is showing 21 games across its various platforms such as the SEC Network and ESPN3.

Several universities have built a whole weekend or week around their spring games. Those universities use concerts, other sports, reunions and more to lure fans to watch a game that really means nothing.

For years, Mississippi State University has used Super Bulldog Weekend to highlight its spring game. This year is no different, with Super Bulldog Weekend taking place from Friday, April 7, to Sunday, April 9.

On the baseball diamond, the Bulldogs host the University of Kentucky, and the softball team hosts the University of South Carolina. Both teams will play a three-game series in their respective sports starting on Friday.

MSU tennis will host Texas A&M University on Friday and Louisiana State University on Sunday. The volleyball team will hold an alumni game on Friday and host Southeastern Louisiana University and Samford University on Saturday.

The spring game starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, with free admission. The SEC Network will broadcast the game for the fans who can’t make the trip.

MSU isn’t the only school hosting its spring game this weekend. The University of Mississippi is putting on Grove Bowl Week for this year’s spring game.

The Rebels will host the University of Alabama in baseball with a three-game series beginning on Friday. The 28th annual Chucky Mullins Award Ceremony breakfast will be held just before the spring game.

UM will play its spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 8, with the SEC Network broadcasting the game. The Rebels are breaking in new offensive and defensive coordinators this season, and this is the first peak at what both units look like for the 2017 season.

April 3, 2017

Future Bright For MSU Even After Title Game Loss

By bryanflynn

Even though another team celebrated under a shower of confetti, the Mississippi State University women’s basketball team had an amazing run. MSU ended the University of Connecticut’s 111-game winning streak in one national semifinal of the Final Four.

The overtime game might be the best basketball game, men’s or women’s, played this year. MSU jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half and led by eight at halftime.

UConn battled back, tying the game and taking the lead as the middle of the third quarter approached. During the rest of the game, both teams battled each other for the lead as each team answered the other’s runs.

The outcome couldn’t be decided in the 40 minutes of regular time, as Morgan William couldn’t make a game-winning shot in regulation. Both teams were exhausted as they began to play a five-minute overtime period.

On weary legs, MSU’s tiny guard William put the Bulldogs up for good with a game-winning shot as time expired. The Bulldogs outscored the Huskies 6-4 in the five extra minutes.

MSU slayed the biggest giant in either men’s or women’s college basketball. Playing the late game, going into overtime and the post-game interviews pushed the Bulldogs into early morning before they could return to their hotel and finally sleep.

This season’s nemesis, the University of South Carolina awaited MSU in the final. The Gamecocks were responsible for two of the Bulldogs’ four losses heading into the title game.

MSU took down the biggest player in the game but then ran into the one other team that does the same things as well as the Bulldogs left standing. South Carolina plays suffocating defense just like MSU, and the Gamecocks have the length to match the Bulldogs that few other teams possess.

The Bulldogs started the national championship game quickly, but before the first quarter ended, it was plain to see that the team didn’t have the same legs it did against the Huskies. South Carolina didn’t panic when MSU went up early.

Before the first quarter ended, the Gamecocks took the lead and didn’t surrender it the rest of the way. MSU cut the lead four points at times but couldn’t find the energy needed to retake it.

Early foul trouble, cold shooting and slow movement plagued the Bulldogs throughout the game. South Carolina looked quicker, more energetic and rested than MSU. Before the start of the final quarter, it was clear that beating UConn ended up taking everything out of the Bulldogs.

Even the hero of the tournament for MSU, William, ended up riding the bench for the whole fourth quarter. The tank was on empty for the Bulldog with the biggest heart. MSU has plenty of heart, and that is why the Gamecocks didn’t run away with the lead completely until late. They just didn’t have the legs to go 40 minutes.

While there isn’t a championship being delivered in ...

March 31, 2017

WrestleMania 33 Predictions: Part Two

By bryanflynn

Seven matches to predict are left on the card , and each one could be considered a main-event level match. If you missed the predictions for the three kickoff-show matches, and the three matches I would start WrestleMania 33 with, you can read all about them here.

“SmackDown” Commissioner Shane McMahon settles his beef with the “Phenomenal One,” A.J. Styles. If you haven’t seen Styles wrestle, go to YouTube and watch some of his matches. He really is phenomenal.

Even though McMahon has worked just two matches since returning to his father’s company, this match will be watchable because of Styles. You could give him a broken mop, and he somehow could get a four-star match out it.

The confusing part of this match is the lack of a gimmick. McMahon is normally in a cage match, no-holds barred one or a street fight-type one—any type of match with something for him to try to kill himself, like jumping off Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 32.

Really, Shane McMahon has a death wish. He has done some insane things you can find all over the Internet. Be sure to check out the concussion he got in a match with Kurt Angle.

Styles even brought up the fact this match has no gimmick at the go-home show for “SmackDown Live.” If it is going to be a wrestling match, he will dominate the whole way. But the fact Styles mentioned the lack of a cage or weapons makes me wonder if a late stipulation will be added to this match.

The match should finish with Styles getting the win but start the tease of a McMahon heel turn. Shane is the only beloved McMahon. So Styles slowly pushing McMahon to perform heel actions as a way to get back at him will be great TV.

Former best friends clash when U.S. Championship holder Chris Jericho battles Kevin Owens. This could be the best match on the card, but it won’t go on last because it isn’t a world-title match and will be needed to pick up the middle of the show.

Jericho is doing some of his best work at the age of 46 and shows no signs of stopping. He can still pull out the moves he did back in WCW and is able to put on top matches with younger guys.

Even at this stage in his career, the crowd still loves Y2J. Here is a list of things Jericho has recently gotten over (getting over means the fans cheer or boo depending on what is trying to be accomplished) with the fans: scarves, a potted plant, saying, “stupid idiot,” telling people they are going to get (insanely long pause) it, a clipboard, a pen, the list of Jericho and the festival of friendship.

If you haven’t enjoyed the gift of Jericho, go to YouTube and drink it in, man.

There isn’t anything Jericho can’t turn to ...

March 30, 2017

WrestleMania 33 Predictions: Part One

By bryanflynn

“Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown Live” held their “go-home shows,” the last shows before a pay-per-view event, earlier this week, so the card for WrestleMania is set. That is, if the WWE doesn’t decided to add another match during WrestleMania 33.

Neither go-home show made me feel any better about this WrestleMania. Both shows were solid, but they didn’t leave me with an uncontrollable desire to see what happens this Sunday, April 2.

I lost count of how many times a wrestler mentioned in his or her promo that WrestleMania is “the ultimate thrill ride” the tagline for this event. The announcers saying the tagline, as well, seems to just be overkill in promoting the show. How many more times will they say that catchphrase on Sunday? It is just too much at this point.

Still, there is plenty of potential for this to be a good WrestleMania, depending on what the company sees itself doing after this show.

WrestleMania 33 has 13 matches on the card, with three matches on the kickoff show and the other 10 matches on pay-per-view or the WWE Network. The kickoff show will also air at 5 p.m. on the USA Network.

If it was my show—and it's not my show—I would start the kickoff show with the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Personally, I would have this match on the main show, but since it is in the kickoff, I would have it go first.

Alexa Bliss, the current champion, will face five other women from the “SmackDown” roster for the title. The winner will be whoever gets the pinfall or submission, and the event could start fast and furious with each woman executing her finisher in the build up to the ending.

There is no reason for Bliss to lose unless the WWE wants to see Naomi win in her hometown of Orlando, where WrestleMania 33 is taking place. Bliss should keep the title to help build a feud with one of the other five women down the line.

Neville, the current cruiserweight champion, will take on Austin Aries for the cruiserweight title on the kickoff show. The WWE can’t go wrong here unless neither man puts on a great match. Both are solid performers, and either as champ works well.

The finish of the cruiserweight match could end up being tied to the winner of the women’s match. A title change should happen on the free show, so if Naomi wins the title, then Neville retains, and if Bliss retains, expect for A-Double to win.

Finishing up the kickoff show is the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Thirty wrestlers will start in the ring, and an opponent must throw them over the top rope to eliminate them. There is only one possible winner of this match, and that is Braun Strowman.

The “monster among men” should be allowed to just run through the field. He could eliminate half the ring by himself, ...

March 30, 2017

Stone Cold Stuns the President

By bryanflynn

This is one of my favorite weeks in sports with the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four and WrestleMania held on the same weekend. Looking at the card for WrestleMania 33, it could be a dud, but the in-ring action may surpass expectations, depending on the angles that the company wants to go with post-show.

If you checked out The Slate in the Jackson Free Press this week, there is a tease about a future president taking part in a past WrestleMania. No, not The Rock, although he might one day run for the office, and he has the charisma and charm to win.

WrestleMania 23 took place at Ford Field in Detroit on April 1, 2007, and while it wasn’t the greatest “showcase of the immortals,” it wasn’t horrible and does have an interesting place the event’s history.

In the run-up to the event, WWE owner Vince McMahon entered into a feud with longtime friend Donald Trump. This feud started when Trump interrupted McMahon on “Monday Night Raw,” stealing the WWE chairman’s spotlight and laying the groundwork for their future match.

This wasn’t the first time Trump ended up as part of McMahon’s traveling show. Trump signed a deal to have Trump Plaza sponsor WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V, even though the events took place at Atlantic City Convention Hall, now known as Boardwalk Hall.

In WrestleMania history, this is still the only time that the event took place in the same location in back-to-back years. Trump was in the crowd as a fan at WrestleMania VII and WrestleMania XX, making him a fixture at the event four times before the 23rd “show of shows.”

At WrestleMania 23, the Trump-McMahon match was billed as the “Battle of the Billionaires.” So what would these so-called billionaires battle over but hair-vs.-hair, with the loser having his head shaved? What else would the two battle over if not their locks?

Instead of fighting each other, the two men chose proxies to fight in their place, with Trump picking ECW champion Bobby Lashley and McMahon going with Intercontinental champion Umaga. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came in as a special guest referee for the match to add more sizzle.

Interesting fact: McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to be Trump’s pick for the match as a callback to WrestleMania III, but money issues between the two kept the Hulkster from taking part in the event.

As for the match, it isn’t a classic for its in-ring work, but Stone Cold handed out his signature move, the “stunner,” to McMahon’s son, Shane, after he entered the match when Umaga had “knocked out” Austin. That set the IC champ up for the finish with a stunner from Austin and a pin by Lashley.

After the match, Trump, Lashley and Austin helped shaved McMahon, and as it turned out, Vince, with no hair, has the tiniest head in the history of wrestling. Stone Cold did his normal post-match ...

The Arts Blog

March 29, 2017

The Return of Fondren After 5

By amber_helsel

After Chane announced earlier this month that he would no longer do Fondren's First Thursday, the event's future was up in the air. However, Fondren Renaissance Foundation recently announced that it will come back as Fondren After 5. Here is some information about the new FA5 directly from

Rotating presenters • Ever Changing Activities • Always Family Friendly

Fondren After 5 – Always First Thursdays – is a neighborhood open house, presented by the merchants and restaurants of Fondren – with opportunities to enjoy good food from one of our nearly two dozen restaurants, bakeries, bars and coffee shops and shop with our unique mix of merchants, mixed in with street-side fun.

In April, Duling Avenue, presented by Hals & Mal’s, Babalu Tacos & Tapasa, Saltine Oyster Bar, Abita Brewing and New Belgium Brewing, is the focus of activity with “Duling Avenue Live.”

Future months include:

May – Fondren Reniassance’s Arts Eats & Beats June – Duling Avenue Live July – State Street Concert Series August – Duling Avenue Live September – Duling Avenue Live October – State Street Concert Series November – Jackson Indie Music Week December – Fondren Renaissance’s Fondren Unwrapped

Welcomed by Fondren Renaissance, whose mission is to empower others to build a better Fondren!

CORRECTION: The original version of this story said Fondren Renaissance Foundation has taken the reins of Fondren After 5. However, for each event, different organizations and businesses such as FRF, Hal & Mal's and Saltine Oyster Bar will be in charge of FA5. The Jackson Free Press apologizes for this error.

March 28, 2017

A Miracle on the Hardwood

By bryanflynn

Even if you don’t follow sports, you’ve probably heard of the 1980 Olympics’ “Miracle on Ice” at some point. A group of young American hockey players took down one of the best hockey teams in the world in the USSR.

What you might not know is that the game against the USSR wasn’t even for the gold medal. The U.S. team still had to play Finland to win the gold, but the game against the USSR is so steeped in lore most just believe it was for the gold.

That USSR team was cloaked in an aura of invincibility. It was a team that reached mythic status even as they still played the game. The country had already beaten many teams before the U.S. stepped on the ice against them.

Why is a game hockey at the end of March so important with no Winter Olympics in sight? If you think about it, the “Miracle on Ice” and the Final Four game that the Mississippi State University women’s basketball team will play on Friday, March 31, are similar.

MSU will face the University of Connecticut, which compares well to that USSR team. The Russians were considered the best in the world and so are the Huskies.

The USSR dominated their sport, even beating the NHL All-Stars 6-0 a year before the Olympics. Connecticut has won 111 straight games and is making its 10th straight Final Four, but the Bulldogs are making their first appearance.

In the 1980 Olympics, the USSR crushed most of the other teams in the tournament in the run-up before facing the Americans. The team had close games against Canada and Finland, but the Russians still won easily.

In the Final Four, UConn is normally in the midst of a blowout before halftime of nearly every game it has played. The closest game the Huskies have played is a 15-point victory over the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Huskies beat many teams that step on the court before the opening tip because UConn possesses the same aura and mystique that the USSR displayed. It is easy to see why since the Huskies have won the past four straight national championships and six of the last eight.

Going into the 1980 Olympics, the USSR had won four straight Olympics, the World Championship and the World Cup. People considered the Russians, like UConn today, nearly unbeatable.

Before the Olympics, the U.S. and the USSR played each other in a game where the Russians won 10-3, as the opposition starstuck the Americans. MSU might not have been starstruck, but they were beaten 98-38 in the Sweet Sixteen last year.

U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks knew he had to break that aura and mystique the Russians held over his players. He began to compare great USSR player Boris Mikhailov to comedy legend Stan Laurel of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

MSU ...

March 27, 2017

MSU Headed to Final Four

By bryanflynn

A season for the ages for the Mississippi State University women’s basketball team just keeps getting better and better. The program reached the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row, but these Bulldogs didn’t want to go home in the first game of the second weekend.

MSU’s task in the Sweet Sixteen was to find a way to slow down Kelsey Plum of the University of Washington, who happens to be the all-time leading scorer for women’s NCAA basketball and has set the single-season record for scoring.

The Huskies star ended up scoring 29 points, but on 10-of-25 shooting and 3-for-8 from the three-point line. MSU harassed Plum all game long with a suffocating defense that rarely gave the guard open looks at the basket.

Even with the stellar defense on Plum, Washington stayed in the game until the fourth quarter. That is when Bulldogs center Teaira McCowan put the team on her back and carried them.

In the first three quarters, McCowan scored six points before exploding for 20 points in the final quarter alone. No player was more dominant in the game than the Bulldogs center, who nabbed 12 rebounds and made a career-high six blocks.

Washington had no answer in the paint for McCowan, as she grabbed rebound after rebound and put missed shots back for easy buckets. A close game for three quarters saw the Bulldogs pull away in the 75-64 victory.

MSU used its depth to wear Huskies out, with 11 players getting into the game and seven playing double-digit minutes. Star guard Victoria Vivians came off the bench and scored 13 points, and rounds-one and -two leading scorer Blair Schaefer scored 10 points. Another impressive fact is that 10 of the 11 players who saw action scored at least two points.

The win propelled MSU to its first Elite Eight appearance in program history. But then Baylor University stood in the Bulldogs’ way of reach the Final Four, and the two teams put on a show on Sunday night.

During that game, each team seemed to battle back after the other made a run to either tie or take the lead. Just when it seemed like one team was about to put the other away, the game tightened up again.

It might not have been a masterpiece for every second, but it was two teams making big shot after big shot. The smallest Bulldog on the floor, Morgan William, ended up taking and making most of those big shots for MSU.

William entered the game after scoring 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting in the team’s other three games during the NCAA Tournament. She exploded for 41 points on 13-of-22 shooting, 6-of-8 from three, and 9-of-10 from the free throw line, with seven assists and zero turnovers.

William hit shots no matter which Bear tried to guard her, and even hit deep three-point shots when Baylor ...

March 24, 2017

MSU Research Leads to Football Helmet That Reduces Concussions

By bryanflynn

Football players could soon be safer from concussions and if so, they will have Mississippi State University to thank for that. Researchers at the Bagley School of Engineering are studying ways to reduce concussions.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the U.S. has an estimated four million concussion each year. Football is one of the sports that has come under fire for concussions after recently retired players started showing signs of brain damage.

Several former players who have allowed scientists to study their brains have been shown to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Scientists are just now discovering the condition and can only make a diagnosis after death. Some of the players discovered to have CTE died of natural cause but other committed suicide to have their brains studied.

The researchers at MSU have turned to nature to look for answers to protect the human brain from concussions, studying the shock mitigation within the horns of big rams and woodpeckers’ beaks to learn how different materials react to shock mitigation.

These researchers have learned that most brain injuries don’t come from that big hit we all cringe at, but instead from the stress waves it causes. The composition of the beak and bone of a woodpecker allows it absorb shocks 10 times greater than those inflicted on football players. Similar, the spiral shape of a ram’s horns help provide an escape route of those dangerous shock waves.

Research has led the scientists at MSU to design a helmet out of advanced materials such as composite and titanium to make the outer shell and facemask, with the facemask lighter. The design shifts center of gravity away from the neck to the nose region while making the helmets stronger and more durable.

Another innovation is on the inside. Researchers have replaced the traditional foam in helmets with foam made out of microstructures similar to a rams’ horns. Tests have shown that the MSU helmet is three times more likely to prevent a concussion.

MSU just isn’t trying to make a better helmet to protect players. Researchers are working on a mouth guard that would record motions and help detect concussions.

The MSU team created a startup company named Rush Predictions Protective Systems and is working with another MSU startup company named Predictive Design Technologies. This research has led to 12 patents with a possibility for more on the way.

These scientists are hoping to use the new helmets during the Bulldogs’ spring training camp this year. MSU’s research could lead to fewer concussions, which could make the game safer for players and help reduce injuries.

March 24, 2017

Gov. Bryant Cuts State Budget, The Fourth Time in Current Fiscal Year

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant announced his fourth budget cut to the current fiscal-year budget this afternoon. He will cut over $20 million from the state's budget, meaning a less than half percent cut for each state agency. He also pulled $39 million from the state's rainy day fund to plug budget holes, a letter to the state's fiscal officer Laura Jackson shows.

Gov. Bryant announced the news on his Facebook page today, shortly after the Joint Legislative Budget Committee met to adjust their revenue estimates, decreasing anticipated revenue projections for the upcoming budget year, which must be finalized by Saturday night and starts July 1.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters after the meeting that revenue estimate change will make the budgeting process "even more challenging." Lawmakers will have to cut $174.6 million from the already reduced legislative budget office's proposed budget for fiscal-year 2018.

The state now has $240 million in its rainy day fund, which the governor has drawn from three times already this year as well as cutting agency budgets to keep the state's budget balanced in spite of lagging revenues.

March 23, 2017

Payton-Manziel Super Bowl Meet-up

By bryanflynn

One of the more interesting stories this week is that New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton met with former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel during Super Bowl week.

There are few examples of a player destroying their career the way Manziel has. NFL teams are known to put up with a lot of crap from players with loads of talent. Heck, any sports-related field is willing to put up with a ton from stars because they are stars, including the MLB, NBA and even the WWE. Just check out the stuff that wrestler Shawn Michaels pulled in his younger years, but “The Showstopper” was one of the greatest talents ever in the ring.

The general consensus has been that it is all right to party like a rock star on Saturday if you can deliver the goods on Sunday. Famed New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath partied with the best of them but still could get it done when the game started. So could New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle. Manziel, on the other hand, couldn’t pull off the feat when the Cleveland Browns drafted him in 2014.

It worked for the quarterback when he was at Texas A&M University and made the news for his bad behavior. The same wild and crazy lifestyle didn’t go over well in the NFL, where players are supposed to be prepared on game day.

Since the Browns drafted in the first round with the 22nd overall pick, the former Heisman Trophy winner seemed to be in scandal after scandal. On the field, Manziel’s talent couldn’t eclipse the dumpster fire that he was off the field.

His antics eventually got old, and the Browns cut him in March 2016. No team wanted him during the offseason, and not many teams have shown interest in the quarterback.

If any coach could get a player to straighten up and live up to the talent that he possesses, it would be Payton. Payton and his current quarterback, Drew Brees, wouldn’t let Manziel act the way that he did with the Browns.

New Orleans, as a city, would be the big risk for signing Manziel. Few cities in America have a reputation for being a place to have a good time like The Big Easy. The temptation for Manziel would be great, and that is where Payton and Brees would have to keep him in check.

It doesn’t seem likely that New Orleans will sign Manziel, but Brees is 38 years old and in the final year of his contract. Payton doesn’t hurt anything by kicking the tires on a quarterback who could be really talented if he fixed his work ethic and personal life.

Remember Michaels mentioned above. Most of the superstars in the WWE disliked him when his back issues forced him to to leave the company. He later returned with the company after a four-and-half-year absence as a better person, according ...

March 22, 2017

Saints Sign Te’o

By bryanflynn

While we wait to hear about a possible deal between the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots for cornerback Malcolm Butler, the Saints still are working on fixing their defense, which was one of the worst in the league. It has gotten linebacker help with the poaching of former Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein.

New Orleans signed former San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o to a two-year deal. No financial details have been released, but it seems like a good bet that the Saints got a good deal.

Te’o missed 13 games last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in week three of the season in a game against the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year-old has spent a good deal of time on the injury list, as he has missed 26 games in his four-year career.

He is an impact player on defense and started 34 out of 38 games, when healthy, for the Chargers. After San Diego drafted him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the linebacker amassed 221 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Te’o was named co-captain of the Chargers for the 2016-2017 season.

New Orleans is starting to get a logjam at linebacker with Te’o, Klein and returning starter Craig Robinson, who all play inside linebacker. The Saints could try to move one player to outside linebacker, but will Te’o have the speed after the Achilles injury?

The Saints, barring another trade, still have two first-round draft picks to use in late April. New Orleans is making an effort to improve its defensive unit.

Te’o was a star at the University of Notre Dame and led his team during his senior season of 2012 to the national championship game. He finished second for the Heisman Trophy that season.

Casual fans might remember the linebacker being misled in one of the more public versions of “catfishing” (when someone pretends to be someone else on the Internet and enters in online relationships with others. MTV produces a show on the subject.)

The linebacker thought he was having an online relationship with a woman, but in truth the woman wasn’t real, and he was being deceived. Things got worse. He told people that his girlfriend, who wasn’t real, had died. In real life, his grandmother had died around the same time.

It was one of the more bizarre sports stories in the last few years. Many believed the linebacker was in on the hoax until it was proven that he had been tricked.

Since entering the league, Te’o hasn’t be involved in any strange stories. The only time he makes the news is for playing or being hurt.

New Orleans doesn’t have to worry about him bring bad press because he has been drama free since joining the league four years ago. But the hoax of a fake-dead girlfriend might be what the public eventually remembers about the linebacker.

March 22, 2017

Bulldogs to Face Huskies in Sweet 16

By bryanflynn

In the first two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, things went as planned for Mississippi State University. The hosting Bulldogs switched up the starting lineup and rotation, but Head Coach Vic Schaefer made the changes work.

MSU got little resistance from opening-round foe No. 15-seed Troy University with a 110-69 win on Friday, March 17. The Bulldogs won an opening-round game for the eighth time in a row and topped 100 points for the first time in an NCAA Tournament.

The 41-point win is the largest in a tournament game and tied a school record for most three-pointers made in a tournament game with 12. Five players scored in double figures, with Blair Schaefer leading the way with a career-high 21 points. This is also the first time in MSU history that the program has won 30 games in a season.

At no time during that first contest did Troy lead after an 18-0 start by the Bulldogs. MSU got a much stiffer test in No. 7-seed DePaul University in the second round on Sunday, March 19. The Bulldogs’ 92-71 victory is even more impressive considering that MSU only led 32-31 at halftime.

In the third quarter, MSU took over the game and began to pull away. By the midpoint of the fourth quarter, no one could doubt the outcome after the Bulldogs’ offensive explosion.

The victory means the team will finish 12-1 at home and continues to set the school record for victories, now at 31 wins. It also puts the team in the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year and for the third time in program history.

Six players finished in double figures against DePaul, with Schaefer scoring 18 points to lead the team for second time in the tournament. Dominique Dillingham also scored 10 points in the game to reach 1,000 points for her career.

In the first two rounds, MSU scored a total 202 points.

The Bulldogs had to wait until late Monday, March 20, to find out which team they would play in the round of 16, as MSU will face the winner between the No. 6-seed University of Oklahoma and the No. 3-seed University of Washington.

Washington rolled over Oklahoma 108-82, with Huskies guard Kelsey Plum scoring 32 points and elevating the record for the most points in a women’s NCAA season. She broke Jackie Stiles’ record of 1,062 points back in February of this year, and currently sits at 1,080 points. The Washington star also has the second-most points in NCAA history for men or women, only behind Louisiana State University great “Pistol Pete” Maravich.

The Huskies have been on an offensive roll, just like the Bulldogs, in the NCAA Tournament. Washington has scored 91 and 108 points in its first two tournament games. MSU will have to figure out a way to slow down Plum and the rest of the high-powered Washington offense.


March 20, 2017

Busted Bracket

By bryanflynn

It’s WrestleMania season and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament time, so what better way to mark the occasion than mix the two biggest events ending in April? Plus, the NCAA and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon are two of the most hated things in sports. If you could throw in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well, it would be the most hated triumvirate in all of sports.

My bracket started like Super John Cena and didn’t lay down for anyone early Thursday, March 16. Then, little slips began to happen, like No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State University upsetting the No. 5 seed University of Minnesota, and No. 11 seed Xavier University beating the No. 6 seed University of Maryland.

By Friday, March 17, my bracket had turned from unbeatable into the Undertaker versus Mick Foley as Mankind in Hell in the Cell at King of the Ring 1998. My bracket, playing the role of Mankind, climbed to the top of the cell just to have the tournament, playing the role of Undertaker, throw it from 20 feet in the air onto the announcer's’ table.

Friday upsets included No. 10 seed Wichita State University over the No. 7 seed University of Dayton, the No. 11 seed University of Rhode Island upsetting No. 6 seed Creighton University, and the No. 11 seed University of Southern California taking down No. 6 seed Southern Methodist University.

Just like Mrs. Foley’s baby boy, instead of going up the ramp into the back on stretcher, my bracket decided to climb back onto the cage on Saturday, March 18. Once more, my bracket played Mankind to the tournament’s Undertaker and the poor bracket got chokeslammed through the steel cage.

That exact moment is how I felt when the No. 8 seed University of Wisconsin took down defending national champions and the No. 1 seed University of Villanova on Saturday. Xavier beating No. 3 seed Florida State University seemed like getting another choke slam but this time on thumbtacks. Yes, that is exactly how the match went after Foley lost a tooth and dislocated his jaw after the choke slam from the top of the cage.

By Sunday, March 19, my bracket had turned into Ric Flair with the tournament playing Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXIV. The tournament delivered its first Sweet Chin Music to my bracket with the No. 7 seed University of Michigan knocking off the No. 2 seed University of Louisville.

On Sunday night, the teary-eyed tournament looked at my bracket and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry; I love you,” just like Michaels to Flair, as it hit me with a second Sweet Chin Music as the No. 7 seed University of South Carolina upended No. 2 seed Duke University.

Things could have been worse for my poor, poor bracket if not for the Montreal Screwjob that the officials did on the No. 8 seed University of Arkansas in ...

March 17, 2017

Pro Day Dates for MSU, JSU, UM and USM

By bryanflynn

Players that didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Combine or didn’t like their performance at the Combine still have a chance to catch the eyes of NFL scouts. Across the country, schools are holding what are known as Pro Days.

Draft-eligible players will workout in front of scouts at their respective universities. There are sometimes Canadian Football League scouts at these Pro Days, as well, looking for players that the NFL might not draft or sign as undrafted free agents.

This is one of the final chances for most players to showcase their skills to the NFL, and it might be the only chance for players at smaller schools to work out in front of scouts. A good Pro Day could get a player’s name called in the later stages of the draft or a phone call to join a team as an undrafted free agent. This is a day that can make or break players’ futures in football.

Four schools in this state have set up Pro Days, according to a schedule released on Universities have been holding Pro Days since March 7, but none of the schools in our state have held their mini-scouting combine.

The first school to hold a Pro Day is Mississippi State University on Wednesday, March 22, at 8:30 a.m. Any MSU players that are eligible for the draft can participate, including wide receiver Fred Ross, who will want to run faster than his 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Jackson State University will hold its Pro Day on Thursday, March 23, at 10 a.m. JSU didn’t have any players get an invite to the Combine, so this will be their chance to show out for the first time in front of scouts.

The next Pro Day is for the University of Mississippi on Monday, April 3, at 9:45 a.m. Quarterback Chad Kelly didn’t get an invite to the Combine but will still have a chance to prove to NFL teams that he’s worth a shot.

Tight end Evan Engram might not run after a sensational Combine performance but could choose to show of his ability to catch passes to help move him up draft boards. Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo could do the same with pass catching and route-running drills.

The University of Southern Mississippi is the last school to hold a Pro Day, with the Golden Eagles getting in front of scouts on Tuesday, April 4, at 2 p.m. in the lone afternoon workout in our state.

Like JSU, none of the Golden Eagles received invites to the NFL Combine. This will be a chance for quarterback Nick Mullens to showcase his skills. Several other Golden Eagles could work their way into the draft with a good day, including offensive lineman Cameron Tom.

Players who attend a school that doesn’t hold a Pro Day are allowed to travel to one of these four universities. Most of the time, players attend a ...