Allegany Communications Sports

Pitchers and catchers report in 29 days.

Spring training opens in 39 days.

Opening Day is 72 agonizing days away, and for the third straight year, the Baltimore Orioles have the No. 1 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, infielder Jackson Holliday, who is just 20 years old but looks 16 and succeeds current Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson as the game’s top prospect.

So, how’s this cold, angry weather treating you?

Meanwhile, on the lighter side of the news, #NFLTheTVShow enters its conference semifinal weekend (forget the Divisional Round stuff, they are the conference semifinals) with two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday. No more Monday night games this year, unless, of course, it snows two feet in San Francisco, Baltimore and Buffalo (hey, it’s happened before, and could happen again).

Detroit plays under a roof, so it doesn’t matter if it snows there. Unless it’s over two feet.

Houston at Baltimore, Green Bay at San Francisco on Saturday; Tampa Bay at Detroit, Kansas City at Buffalo on Sunday. Who ya got?

I’ll go chalk and say Baltimore, San Francisco, Detroit and Buffalo, though if you’re a Ravens fan, the red-hot Texans are a major concern coupled with the Ravens’ recent inactivity, due to a well-earned and much-needed first-round bye.

I’d take the Ravens to win, but the Texans on the +9.5. If I gambled.

Look for the Packers to come out of the gates hot against the 49ers, but bet on the 49ers to take control of the game and advance. Tampa is better than most think and will give the Lions a game, but Detroit is going to be on fire again on Sunday and should give its deserving fans one more home playoff win.

Kansas City-Buffalo is a big-time match-up and will mark the first road playoff game in the amazing career run of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But aside from the Ty Johnson factor (how ‘bout that Ty Johnson!), I like the Bills to remain the hottest team going this week, though, as a Ravens fan, likely won’t care for it much if the Bills’ next stop is Baltimore.

Is blood really thicker than water? As Scarlett O’Hara once said, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

One insignificant thing to watch, though, before, during and after the Chiefs-Bills game: Let’s see which NFL TV talking head makes a fool of himself concerning the presence of Taylor Swift, provided Taylor Swift attends the game in Buffalo to root for her boyfriend Travis Kelce.

This is how absurd the Taylor Swift backlash has become — it has officially become bad television, and nothing intrigues me more than bad television.

Last weekend it was NBC’s revered sage Tony Dungy who told Fox News, “That’s the thing that’s disenchanting people with sports now. There’s so much on the outside coming in. Entertainment value and different things. Taking away from what really happens on the field.”

Hey, Taylor Swift is watching the game every time every network, including Dungy’s NBC as well as Fox, shows her. She’s not watching us. But then, she’s an outside person “coming in” taking away from what really happens on the field. What big-feeling baloney that is.

And people are becoming disenchanted with sports, leading with the NFL? Funny, the NFL just announced it enjoyed record television ratings in 2023 and that 96 NFL games were amongst the 100 most-viewed television shows for the year.

Now, does Tony Dungy, who, to me, has become more and more self-righteous over the years, really believe his I-Am-Me take on what is right-wrong, good-evil was really needed on this Taylor Swift silliness? In fairness, he was asked the question, but how can a current pop icon attending something of such vital national security as a football game disenchant people who want to be entertained?

Ever hear of fun, Tone?

What, you’re saying no crowd shots now? Oh, crowd shots are good, but not just of Taylor Swift? Then why all of the shots of Jerry Jones sitting in his box pounding the counter top? What hidden insights and secrets of the actual football game are unlocked by showing Jerry Jones sitting in his box? None; but what does it hurt? It hurts nothing, and people who like to see the Dallas Cowboys lose enjoy seeing it, and the networks show it because it’s a television show, and if you want people to watch your television show, you show them what they want to see.

Taylor Swift is disenchanting TV fans with a TV show? Taylor Swift is a giant in the entertainment industry, and guess what, Tony? So is the NFL. Check its FCC license — entertainment, not sports.

And this just in: The NFL is not really big issues and heart surgery, it’s a football game being shown on television just like a game show is. In fact, that’s what #NFLTheTVShow is: It’s a game show that you can also win or actually lose your own money betting on.

And you, Tony Dungy, are no Pat Sajak.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT