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Mike Phillips column: It's time to hand out some Christmas gifts

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

Just finished with my Christmas list, and thought you might want to take a peek.

So here goes.

Here are some of the gifts I’d like to hand out this year.

I’d like to give the GHSA a GPS. Honest. The guys who run the state high school playoff system in Georgia need a map, a compass and some common sense.

How do you make Monroe’s football team travel 8,000 miles to play Gainesville in the second round of the state playoffs? OK, it wasn’t 8,000 miles. It just felt like it to the kids from Albany who had to drive to Gainesville, Ga., which happens to be farther from Albany than Gainesville, Fla.

It makes no sense to have any team drive across the state to play in another team’s home stadium in the football playoffs.

So let’s get this straight. My kids get to stay at home and then play a playoff game in front of packed house of hometown fans while your kids have to travel all day just to get to my stadium.

And don’t tell me about how the top seed deserves to be at home. The seedings are based on competing against local teams, and all local teams aren’t equal. The No. 1 seed in one region might not be as good as the No. 4 team in a tougher region.

If you want to be fair, it’s simple.

I have two words for you: Neutral Site.

Got it? It’s not impossible to grasp the concept, and if you’re having trouble just take a look at what they do in Texas, where they know a little bit about high school football.

When you get to the playoffs in Texas, the coaches and or athletic directors get together and decide where the game will be played, and they do their best to pick a great stadium that both schools can agree upon.

Monroe lost to Gainesville in the final minutes, but I wonder who would have won that game between Gainesville and Monroe if Gainesville traveled 240 miles to Albany and played at Hugh Mills Stadium?

It’s just wrong, no matter who is traveling.

Merry Christmas to the GHSA.

I’ve got a great gift for Urban Meyer and all the Florida Gator fans, who now think Meyer ran out on them.

I’d like to give Meyer a new doctor or a new public relations agent.

First of all, he retires from the Gators for health reasons, names an interim coach, then turns around and five minutes later says he’s ready to coach again.

Then after a miserable season in 2010, he retires again and goes to work for ESPN. Then after one year on TV, Meyer feels good enough to coach again — at his dream job at Ohio State.

Now all the Gator fans think he’s a liar and unethical.

Imagine that.

I’ve got a great gift idea, and this one is for your boss, whoever he is. I’m giving him or her the Mark Richt book on how to treat your employees. I’ve always admired Richt, but now I see that he paid his assistant coaches out of his own pocket because he didn’t think they were making what they deserved.

The word we’re looking for here is class — first class. That’s Richt. It’s like the legendary Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips once said when he was asked if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself.

Phillips, in his best country drawl said: “Well, I don’t know about that. But it sure doesn’t take long to call roll.’’

That’s where Richt is today.

Merry Christmas, coach.

What should I give Tim Tebow?

Absolutely nothing. Everybody already gives him too much credit. He’s an interesting guy, a hybrid-type player who has found a way to get the most out of what he has. But when people called him the greatest college player ever ... Really? The greatest ever?

I still cringe whenever I hear that Tebow led Florida to two national championships. He led his team to the title when he was a junior, but the first title the Gators won came against Ohio State when Tebow was a freshman. The MVP of that game was indeed the Florida quarterback. It was Chris Leak.

Personally, I don’t think Tebow was the best guy on his team when he did start for the Gators. Percy Harvin was the most talented player on the field for those Gator teams, and Cam Newton was on the bench at Florida. Now honestly, who do you think is a better quarterback, Newton or Tebow? If Newton had been given the chance and played at Florida he would have won a Heisman Trophy there. He never got the chance, went to Blinn Junior College and then to Auburn — and now to the NFL, where he is twice the quarterback Tebow is.

Tebow in the NFL? It’s a remarkable story, the kind I love, but part of the wonder of this story is the fact Tebow doesn’t put up big numbers. If you have Tebow on your fantasy football team you’re hurting.

Here’s my other problem. Andy Dalton, Colt McCoy and a long list of other players in the NFL are devout Christians, but the way the media plays up Tebow you would think he was the only player who ever went to church.

West Virginia quarterback Gino Smith is from South Florida, and when he was at Miramar High School, Gino not only led his team to the state semifinals, but one Sunday, he took the entire team to his church. Why doesn’t anyone ever mention that Gino is a Christian?

I don’t knock Tebow for being a Christian. I admire him for his faith, and admire the way he plays the game, but he has always been bigger than life — even in high school when ESPN did a documentary on him called “Tim Tebow, The Chosen One.”

One of my closest friends (and a Gator at that) always says: “Tebow doesn’t have to worry about a career in the NFL. He could leave football tomorrow and go right to Hollywood and become the biggest box office draw in the movies.’’

Funny thing, I think my friend is right.

I’ve been trying to think what I can give to St. Louis Cardinals fans. If you have never seen a baseball game in St. Louis, it’s hard to understand. I don’t know if there are better, more knowledgeable baseball fans any where, and it’s a joy to watch a game there.

I’m not from St. Louis, and I’m not a Cardinals fan, but have been touched by those fans every time I’ve been to a game there — and I’ve seen more than I can remember.

I wrote a story years ago about how it’s a baseball paradise, and how the Cardinals actually have an unfair advantage when it comes to free agents, because of the incredible baseball atmosphere there. What the Cardinals have been able to do over the years, time and time again is make a late-season trade for a free agent to be, and then resign the guy.

Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman ... the list goes on and on, and every one of those players loved playing in St. Louis. Who wouldn’t?

Edmonds once told me that he fell in love with the baseball atmosphere in St. Louis and joked that even the food tasted better and women looked prettier once he started playing for the Cardinals.

I have nothing to give Cardinals fans. They have a love and passion for the game, and a sense of history and reverence that takes your breath away. I have nothing but admiration for them.

Now, for Albert Pujols, who redefined the words petty and selfish in a way that will stick with me for the rest of his miserable career, I do have a little something. I just can’t write it here.

Merry Christmas, Albert.