Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
Email: | Twitter: @wwltvsports

Editor's Note:
Welcome to the first edition of what we plan on being a weekly exercise in variety. You've seen these before a columnist puts down thoughts on a couple of various sports topics or items that roughly have something to do with sports. This is our version.

We don't have a name for the column, yet, but we'd love to hear your suggestions. You can email with your column names.

Bob Stoops hates the SEC
For seven years, the Southeastern Conference has ruled college football.

Even when snarky local columnists (re: me) think the SEC era has come to a close, the conference goes out and pummels undefeated Notre Dame to win the title, forcing a mea culpa from said snarky local columnist.

But a columnist dispensing thoughts on the SEC is one thing. A head coach at what is considered one of the country's elite football programs? Well, that's something entirely different.

Bob Stoops, head coach at Oklahoma, said during a Sooner Caravan stop in Tulsa, Okla., that the SEC's strength is a falsehood, claiming that conference isn't as deep as it claims or as far in front of everybody else as it appears to be.

Stoops, of course, has a point about the depth.

It's hard to argue that the Kentucky's of the world are SEC-caliber. Missouri, formerly of the Big XII went 5-7 and 2-6 in its first SEC season. Tennessee was 1-7 in the league. Arkansas was 2-6. Auburn, which won the national championship just three seasons ago, fell to 0-8 in the SEC.

Those aren't exactly fear-inducing numbers.

Then again, how deep is the Big XII? Kansas and Iowa State aren't exactly scaring anyone on their schedules.

Then again, Vanderbilt, a constant cellar-dweller, went 5-3 and 9-4 overall and has become a consistent tough out for conference teams. Mississippi State and Ole Miss, consistent pushovers, have become consistent fights, bowl-bid earning programs.

Thanks to reader Brian Duval, we have these stats:

  • In 2012, 14 SEC teams combined for a .670 winning percentage. Ten Big XII had a .590 percentage.
  • The SEC is 75-63-6 against the Big XII.
  • Since 2010, the SEC is 5-2 against the Big XII, including 11-4 since 2008 when Texas A&M was a member of Stoops' conference.
  • Fact is, depth doesn't equal quality and quality doesn't equal depth.

Fact is the SEC is still the king of the land, still the ruler of the throne.

Seven straight national championships have been won by the SEC. Three of the past four BCS title game teams were from the SEC. One of the conference's national championships, Florida's in 2008, came at the expense of Stoops' Sooners. Four different teams have won the seven different titles. The average score in the past seven title games is SEC 32, Victim 15.

Point is Stoops certainly is correct in his assessment that the SEC's depth isn't as real as fans and even some media makes it out to be. But in the end, Stoops' comments come off as whining as much as anything.

Until someone unseats the SEC at the top, comments like Stoops' will continue to sound all full of fury while delivering nothing but hot air.

Chris Paul what now?
Here we go again.

Where will Chris Paul end up? The rumblings started in New Orleans months before he was finally traded. OK. Let's be honest. It was more than 365 days before he said bon voyage to the Crescent City.

And now it starts all over. Paul is a free agent as of July 1 and the Clippers already have two long-term high-priced players under contract DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Can they, and do they want to, afford another one? Their VP of Basketball Operations said yes.

Many cities have been mentioned as possible suitors for Paul's services and that includes New Orleans, which has buckets full of cash money to spend.

Don't expect that to happen even if on some level it makes sense.

Paul left for many reasons, one of which was he was ready for a bigger market.

He also left because he wanted to eventually ply his trade with a team that will give him a shot at a championship. New Orleans is no closer to an NBA title in fact, you could argue it's further away than when he left. The pieces are young and while there seems to be a bright future here, it's not one that's going to attract Paul.

But you can bet on this. The circus will return to surrounding Paul and, quite frankly, it's nice that it's not in New Orleans.

Vikings bid adieu to P Chris Kluwe
The Minnesota Vikings released punter Chris Kluwe on Monday after drafting UCLA punter Jeff Locke in April's NFL draft, outwardly an attempt to get younger and cheaper. Kluwe had one year left remaining on his contract that would have paid him $1.45 million, according to

He averaged 44.4 yards per punt in eight seasons with Minnesota and had a career-best 39.7 net average in 2012. He was 17th in the NFL in net average.

Yet, Kluwe has never been known for his on-field exploits. Heck, when's the last time a punter made so much news?

If you know the name, you know his background of publicly praising equality, openly supporting gay marriage. In other words, you have to wonder if his outspoken style on social issues didn't do him any favors.

If that's the case, it's a sad statement on where we are as a society.

Though they've never asked for it, athletes are role models. Charles Barkley once famously filmed a Nike ad in which he proclaimed that he wasn't a role model.

Yet, athletes are role models. As are musicians, actors and anyone else famous enough to have a posse and paparazzi follow them. And many times they end up being poor role models, careers ending in flames thanks to drug problems or police records.

Kluwe was different.

Along with former Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, Kluwe filed an amicus brief calling for equality. All three were speaking out against what they believe is an inequality.

Whether you agree with Kluwe or not, you have to applaud that he was standing up for something he believed in and doing it in a way that would make people proud. He accepted his status as an NFL football player and spoke eloquently about his stance.

That's someone we should get behind as a society, someone who isn't making news for getting caught with drugs, guns or worse and instead is taking a stand for something they believe in.

Good night, Sir Alex
Here's an item that won't make a lot of waves publicly in New Orleans.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, or Sir Alex or Fergie to those who follow the Red Devils, announced his retirement from coaching effective the end of this season.

For the intrinsically xenophobic, it's a big blow for a club that has one of the world's biggest fan bases.

What Vince Lombardi was to the Green Bay Packers and the NFL, what Red Auerbach was to the Boston Celtics and the NBA, what John Wooden was to UCLA and college basketball and what Bear Bryant was to Alabama and college football, that's what Ferguson is to Manchester United and British soccer.

Sir Alex has been with Manchester United for 27 seasons. With two matches to go in the season, he has won 894 games and carries a 59.7 percent winning percentage. In 1,498 matches, he has fewer than 275 losses.

Just with Manchester United, Ferguson has won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cup championships, four League Cup championships, two Champions League titles, and one European Cup Winners' Cup, European Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup titles apiece. That's 28 titles, all since the 1989-90 season.

Whether you like soccer or not and we're guessing the bulk of readers here will be on the not side you have to respect what he has done.

Birmingham Barons win social media
And finally, we'll leave you with this lovely nugget.

The Birmingham Barons appear to know how to use social media for the greater good.

The Double-A baseball franchise posted on its Facebook page earlier this week a photo of a wedding ring, taking to the public a search for which fan was missing his marriage band.

By Wednesday afternoon, the photo had 112 comments and nearly 31,000 shares.

And, if you were wondering, there was a happy ending. The owner saw the post and contacted the Barons, getting back a ring that originally belonged to the grandfather of her husband.

With all the bad news in the world, sometimes it's the small things that can give you hope again.

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