Teddy Bishop

On The Clay

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the French Open looming on the horizon tennis eyes are focusing on the red-clay courts of Roland Garros.

The very first French Open was held in 1891, but was aptly called the French Championships, since only men who were citizens of France were allowed to compete. The champion is listed as H. Briggs.

The French Championships didn’t include women until 1897. Four Frenchwomen competed, with Adine Masson winning the title. Masson went on to win a total of five French Championships.

In 1925, the tournament became international and was designated a Grand Slam event.  Rene Lacoste of France won the men’s title, defeating fellow countryman Jean Borotra. Frenchwoman Susanne Lenglen defeated Britain’s Kathleen McKane to win the ladies’ title.

In 1928, a new tennis complex was built in Paris, and the president of the complex insisted that it be named Roland Garros Stadium, after a World War I hero, even though Garros never played professional tennis.

So—who was Roland Garros? Garros was an ‘ace’ French fighter pilot that came up with safer propeller blades that allowed for forward firing of machine guns.

There is some discrepancy as to how many enemy planes he actually shot down, but five downed planes would have classified him as an ‘ace.’ (Aerial warfare was something new. Remember, WWI started barely a decade after the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.)

In 1915, Garros’ plane developed engine trouble during an airfight, and he made an emergency landing in German territory.

He was quickly captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. When he escaped some three years later, the war was winding down, but he resumed his role as a fighter pilot.

Unfortunately, a month before the war ended, Garros was killed when his plane was shot down. He was twenty-nine.

Enough about Roland Garros, the fighter pilot. Let’s talk about Roland Garros, home of the French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament.

The winningest player ever at Roland Garros is Rafael Nadal. Fourteen (the all-time record) of Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles have come at Roland Garros. Despite some recent injuries, the Spaniard is expected to go for number fifteen.

Bjorn Borg of Sweden won the French six times. Novak Djokovic, the GOAT with 24 Grand Slam championships, has only won three titles at Roland Garros (including 2023).

Switzerland’s Roger Federer, with 20 Slam titles, had only one championship at the French Open.

On the women’s side, American Chris Evert has the most French Open titles with seven, the first one in 1974, the last one in 1986.

German Steffi Graf won the title six times, as did Suzanne Lenglen, but only two of Lenglen’s wins came after the tournament became international.  Serena Williams, arguably the greatest woman tennis player of all time with 23 Grand Slam titles, won the French only three times.

The first American woman to win the French Open was Helen Wills Moody in 1928, her first of four. The first American man was Don Budge in 1938. He actually won all four Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open) that year, but 1938 was his only French Open victory.

Prize money for 2024 will be the highest ever, with both the men’s and ladies’ champion earning $2,567,051. Runners-up will receive $1,283,525. First-round losers will get $78,081. All prize money will be paid in Euros, of course.

The French Open begins Sunday, May 26th, and culminates with the Ladies’ Championship on Saturday, June 8th , and the Men’s Championship on Sunday, June 9th.

On to Roland Garros!

Retired

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Matt Ryan, who played quarterback for 15 years in the NFL—14 of them with the Atlanta Falcons—recently retired.

Ryan was drafted out of Boston College in 2008 (third overall pick)—just a year after Falcons All-pro QB Michael Vick was sent to prison on charges of sponsoring dog-fighting.

He endeared himself to Falcons fans immediately by leading the team to the playoffs, while being named 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Overall, the Falcons made the playoffs six times with Ryan at quarterback, a franchise record.

He led Atlanta to the NFC championship game against San Francisco following the 2012 season, but the Falcons blew the lead in that game, losing 28-24.

The most infamous playoff game, however, was Super Bowl LI, following the 2016 season. Atlanta blew a 28-3 halftime time against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, eventually losing 34-28.  (The Underworld Powers-That-Be were already adjusting thermostats in case it froze over.)

The only other quarterback to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl (XXXIII) is Chris Chandler, following the 1998 season. The Falcons lost, 34-19, to future Hall-of-Famer John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Still, Ryan is the winningest quarterback in Falcons history, leading the Birds to 120 regular-season victories in his 14 seasons in Atlanta.

He also has the highest quarterback rating—94.2—in Atlanta history, completing 5,479 passes out of 8,354 attempts, a 65.6% completion rate.

Ryan threw for over 62,000 yards in his career, including 73 times for over 300 yards, franchise records. He threw 367 touchdown passes as an Atlanta Falcon, also a franchise record. Including the playoffs, Ryan played in 232 Falcon games, also a record for an Atlanta quarterback.

In addition to 2008 Offensive Player of the Year, Ryan was named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

The Falcons made the playoffs the year after Super Bowl LI’s debacle, but have had some rough times since.

Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts following the 2021 season for a third-round pick.

The Colts released Ryan after the 2022 season.

With no offers on the table for 2023, Ryan worked as a broadcaster for CBS, and finally, officially, decided to call it a day.

Ryan signed a one-day contract with Atlanta so that he could retire as a Falcon, and issued a statement thanking Falcons fans for their support. “I’m honored to retire as a Falcon,” he said on social media.  “Through the highs and lows, I always felt your energy and passion.”

Matt and his wife Sarah have been married 13 years and still live in the Atlanta area, where they are very active in community work. They have three children.

Enjoy your retirement, Matt Ryan. You’ve earned it.

Play Ball

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As the Braves throw out the first Spring Training pitch at Cool Today Park in North Port, Florida, six of the eight position players appear to be set.

Austin Riley will anchor the hot corner after signing a lengthy contract extension last season. Riley hit .273 in 2022 with 38 homeruns and 93 runs-batted-in. Will 2023 be his MVP year?

Matt Olsen will be back at first base for the second year of his long-term contract with Atlanta after Freddie Freeman defected to the Dodgers. Olsen will be looking to improve on his .240 average from last season, but his power numbers were excellent—34 HRs, 103 RBIs. Olsen is also a former Gold Glove winner.

The Braves are hoping for a healthy Ozzie Albies at second base, something that hasn’t happened consistently since he signed his contract extension in 2021. Albies is a leader on the diamond—and in the clubhouse—but needs to stay healthy.

Sean Murphy is apparently going to be the everyday catcher as the Braves gave up some good players to obtain him, and then signed him to a long-term deal.

Murphy is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and had 18 homeruns with 66 RBIs last year in Oakland. Travis d’Arnaud, a fan favorite in Braves Country, may be the odd man out if someone else emerges as the designated hitter.

Willie Harris II will probably be the everyday centerfielder for Atlanta for the next decade. Harris, the reigning Rookie of the Year, should get even better as he matures.

What can you say about Ronald Acuna, Jr.? Winning Rookie of the Year in 2018, and poised to perhaps become the face of the Atlanta franchise, Acuna simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last three years, from nagging injuries to a torn ACL.

All stakeholders say he is now healthy, and Acuna is looking to return to his 2019 form when he hit .280 with 41 HRs, 101 RBIS, and had 37 stolen bases. When healthy, Acuna is also among the leaders in put-outs for right fielders.

Left field could be an issue for the Braves. Marcel Ozuna is a defensive liability, and appears to be slated as the designated hitter (but let’s not forget d’Arnaud). Eddie Rosario will probably be standing to Willie Harris’ right during spring training, but I’m not convinced a trade won’t be made to plug the gap in left.

That brings us to shortstop. Vaughn Grissom is penciled in, but there is an eraser on the pencil, as Braves brass says there is an open competition between Grissom and Orlando Arcia.

Filling in last year for Albies at second, Grissom batted .291 with five homeruns and 18 RBIs in 41 games. If neither Grissom nor Arcia pans out at Cool Today Park, the Braves have hot prospect Braden Shewmake in the minors.

As for pitching, the first four starters seem set. Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Kyle Wright, and Charlie Morton may be as good as any team’s top four starters in the National League, and certainly in the NL East.

Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder, and others are competing for the fifth rotation spot. As you may remember, however, Anderson finished last season at Triple-A, and Soroka hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2019 due to injury.

The Braves bullpen will be strong again, with Raisel Iglesias as the closer. A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh, Dylan Lee, Kirby Yates, Jackson Stephens and newcomers Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge should be ready to get the game to the ninth.

Atlanta also has a bevy of pitchers and position player signed to minor league contracts, which could be a spring factor.

All in all, the Atlanta Braves look pretty good for 2023 and have an excellent shot at defending their 5th straight NL East title.

The first game that counts is March 30 at Washington. Play ball!

Armed Pirates

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In 2021, the Brunswick High Pirates rolled to an 11-1 record that included a city championship, a region championship, and a second-round playoff appearance.

In 2022, the Pirates have a new head coach, a different region, and aspirations of a much deeper run in the playoffs.

Garrett Grady has taken over as the Head Pirate after five years as offensive coordinator at BHS. Almost all of the coaching staff from last season has returned, which should be a big plus for the Pirates. “The coaches have done a great job developing relationships with our guys,” Coach Grady said in a recent interview with Bishop Media. “Our hashtag is still ‘All About the Family.’ “

When asked about his offensive scheme, Grady said it will reflect the personnel. “We want to play to our strengths,” he added. “We have a great offensive line,” with Quan Gibson, Jamal Meriweather, Eli Smith, and Jonathan Welson returning. “We also have some experienced receivers in Terry Mitchell and Jayden Drayton,” among others.

“We have a new quarterback in J.R. Elkins. I think he will be able to put the ball in space on the outside. We’ll run a lot of zone and gap schemes.”

Replacing Chuckobe Hill and Ree Simmons at running back will not be easy, but Grady is pleased with the performances of several running backs, including William Heck.

As for defense, “We have seven or eight defensive starters returning from last year,” said Grady, including Ka’Shawn Thomas, last year’s region defensive player of the year, and a Wake Forest commit. “Our defense will revolve around Ka’Shawn.  He can disrupt a lot of offenses. “

“Everything we do defensively is based out of a 3-4,” Grady added, “but we’ll run multiple fronts out of it. We also have good experience returning at linebacker and in the secondary.”

Special teams should also be a strength for Brunswick High. McClain Fineran, who led the region in scoring last season, will return as kicker for the Pirates. “We’re going to be very athletic on special teams,” Grady asserted.

Brunswick High is still in Region 2-6A, but with some changes. GHSA realignment dropped Bradwell, Richmond Hill, and Statesboro from 2-6A; and added three Augusta schools—Evans, Grovetown, and Lakeside Evans.

The Pirates kick off the season August 19 at Glynn County Stadium on the newly installed artificial turf against Andrew Jackson High School, followed by Camden County (August 26), also at home.

Following a bye week, Brunswick High will host Bolles (September 9) as part of the Border War Classic, and then Islands (September 16) to conclude non-region play.

Region play begins on September 23 for the Pirates against Glynn Academy in the City Championship Game, with the winner earning the inside track for a region title.

Brunswick High will then travel to Augusta to take on Grovetown (September 30), followed by Lakeside Evans (October 7) back at Glynn County Stadium.

The Pirates will have another bye week on October 14 before traveling to Guyton and taking on South Effingham (October 21.)

BHS will make its second trip to Augusta (October 28) to do battle with Evans. Grady’s Pirates will conclude regular-season play at home against Effingham (November 4).

“It’s a tough schedule,” Grady related, “but that’s how we want it.  We’re going to be battle tested.”

Five rounds of state playoff games begin on November 11, with the state championship game scheduled for the second week in December.

“I want to commend my coaching staff and players,” Grady said in conclusion.  “Everyone’s been working hard, and we’re excited about the upcoming season.”

It says here that Garrett Grady’s Brunswick High Pirates win another city championship, another region championship, and make a deep, deep, deep, deep run in the state playoffs.

 

 

 

Brunswick High Pirates Coach’s Show w Sean Pender October 20

Brunswick High Pirates Coach's Show w Sean Pender October 20
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The Matchup

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Even though the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is being severely curtailed due to Covid-19, the game that accompanies The Party still has significant meaning.

The winner of the Georgia-Florida shootout will likely win the Southeastern Conference East title and take on Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The winner of the match-up against Alabama will win the SEC title and secure a spot in the College Playoffs for an opportunity to win a National Championship.

Florida had two games postponed because of a Covid outbreak, including head coach Dan Mullen testing positive, and couldn’t even take the practice field for twenty-one days. But all of that seems to be in the rearview mirror, at least for now.

Mullen has returned Florida to national prominence, going 21-5 in his first two seasons, but has not found to way to beat Georgia. Mullen’s Gators lost to the Bulldogs 37-26 in 2018, and 24-17 last year.

In Athens, Kirby Smart took over as Head Dawg in 2016 and had compiled a 44-12 record going into this Covid-plagued year, including three feasts on Gator tail with only one loss.

Florida opened the season with convincing wins over Mississippi 51-35 and South Carolina 38-24, before falling to Texas A&M 38-41.

Georgia rolled to three consecutive wins to start the 2020 season, beating Arkansas 37-10, Auburn 27-6, and Tennessee 44-21, before running into an Alabama buzzsaw 24-41.

The debacle in Tuscaloosa notwithstanding, Georgia’s defense has looked good for the most part.  On the other hand, the Gator D has been porous at times.

The high-powered Gator offense is forcing maintenance crews to change a lot of light bulbs on scoreboards, averaging over 42 points per game, but the Bulldogs offense hasn’t done too shabbily either, putting up 33 points per contest.

A huge key to any game, of course, is the play of the quarterback, and it says here that Kyle Trask gives Florida the advantage over Stetson Bennett and the Dogs in the QB Dept.

Through three games, Trask has thrown 14 touchdown passes with only one interception, averaging well over 300 yards passing per game.

In four outings, Bennett has 7 TD passes and 3 interceptions, while averaging about 240 yards passing per game.

Having quoted all those stats, I don’t believe Florida has faced a defense as good as Georgia’s. If you take away the Alabama game, which you can’t, of course, the Dawgs are surrendering fewer than 13 points per game.

Trask’s task is to avoid pressure from the Georgia defense, and I just don’t see that happening.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two local players now wearing the Red and Black for Georgia: former Brunswick High offensive lineman Warren McClendon and former Glynn Academy kicker Jack Podlesny.

Podlesny is having a sterling season for the Dawgs, converting 14 of 14 extra points and eight of 10 field goals, including a 51-yarder.

McClendon (Willie’s nephew), a redshirt freshman, is arguably the best offensive lineman ever to come out of Glynn County, certainly the best I’ve seen in my 18 years of broadcasting Brunswick High football.

Final score for the 2020 Georgia-Florida game: Bulldogs 33; Gators 30.

Podlesny kicks a last second field goal to win the game. McClendon, of course, makes the key block.

 

Brunswick High Pirates Coach’s Show w Sean Pender October 14

Brunswick High Pirates Coach's Show w Sean Pender October 14
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Call It What It Is

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Okay, is it the Georgia-Florida game, or the Florida-Georgia game?

Well, my oldest son is a Georgia fan, and my youngest son and my daughter are Florida fans, so for the purposes of this article, I’ll just refer to it as THE Game.

The bitin’ Bulldawgs started the season ranked #3 with visions of winning a national championship. And they certainly moved in that direction until the Gamecocks from Columbia (South Carolina, not South America) rolled into Athens (Georgia, not Greece) and upset the Dawgs in double overtime, 20-17. Georgia could still make the playoffs, but, well, not really.

As for Florida, the Giant Water Lizards started the season at #7, having made improvements over the last two seasons. The Lizards from Gainesville (Florida, not Georgia) were rolling merrily along until they had to go to Red Stick, Louisiana and play the Big Kitty Cats. Final score:  42-28.

So, both teams come into THE Game with one loss.

Quarterbacks are always important in THE Game. In Athens, Jake Fromm kicked Justin Fields’ butt on the practice field and sent Fields packing.

Fields appealed for a hardship case, saying a Georgia baseball player was prejudiced. The NCAA bought his story and allowed Fields to play in Columbus (Ohio, not Georgia) without sitting out a season.

The rumor on Fields was that he couldn’t decipher the Dawg playbook and Fromm could.  I guess Ohio State doesn’t have a playbook because Fields has done excellent work for the Buckeyes. (Can anyone tell me what a Buckeye is? I looked it up and it’s either a shrub/tree, a butterfly, or a coupling for a railroad car.  That’s right off the internet, so it’s got to be true.  I originally thought it had something to do with a male deer’s vision capacity, but apparently not. By the way, do you know the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts?  Beer nuts cost $4.95. Deer nuts are under a buck.)

At any rate, Justin Fields has taken Ohio State to a #3 ranking while the Dawgs have fallen to #10, making some people suggest that Kirby Smart should have kept Fields and let Jake Fromm at the mouth.

Speaking of Smart, Kirby has done an excellent job in Athens, despite the loss to SC.

Down in the swamp, Dan Mullen has Gator fans talking national championship again, but not this year.

When Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks left the Kentucky game with a season-ending injury, backup Kyle Trask entered the game and took the Lizards to a comeback win. And Trask has played well, the LSU game notwithstanding.

Georgia’s offensive line is very good, and that could be a key to THE Game. They’ve opened holes for D’Andre to show how Swift he is. The Dawgs also have some pretty good receivers as do the Lizards. It could come down to the running game.

Whichever team can establish the running game early should have the inside track to winning the game.

THE Game will be played in Jacksonville (a neutral site) again, although Kirby Smart has expressed an interest in a home-and-home series. Tailgating will start at least a day ahead of time, even in Brunswick (Georgia, not Maine).

I guess it has come down to predicting the final score, so here goes:  24-17. (Smiley Face!)

Brunswick High Pirates Coach’s Show w Sean Pender September 25

Brunswick High Pirates Coach's Show w Sean Pender September 25
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Jason Bishop Show With Kipp Branch December 19

Jason Bishop Show With Kipp Branch December 19
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