Let me start with a little perspective — Boise State hasn’t had an NBA draft pick this century and has never won an NCAA tournament game.

Pretty much lets you know how the school rates in the tradition department.

But that draft pick drought is about to end because there is no longer any question that Broncos forward Chandler Hutchison will hear his name called in June’s draft.

The discussion of how high is one for after the season. But just know NBA teams are going to love the tape they view of Hutchison’s school-record 44-point performance against San Diego State on Saturday.

Hutchinson carried the team all night and made 15 of 21 shots, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range. He banked in two 3s, displayed mid-range ability, and repeatedly gained separation while driving to the hoop.

He carried himself like the best player in the building, which was a good thing as Boise State had to survive a last-second 3-point miss to notch an 83-80 victory over the Aztecs.

Making it more impressive is that San Diego State is one of the best teams Boise State will play this season. It also doesn’t hurt that NBA scouts are well aware of the Aztecs’ reputation for playing stellar defense.

This game will be the one where a few NBA teams say “We’ve got to get that kid” and a few others will take him off their bubble and determine he is draft-worthy and a few others will move him higher up their draft boards.

Scoring 44 points on 21 field-goal attempts demands attention from NBA personnel directors.

Look, Hutchison’s performance on Saturday could be tabbed the top moment in Boise State’s basketball history. Did I mention the Broncos have never won an NCAA tournament game? (Oh, I did … 0-7 is the record).

The school’s media guide says the Broncos have had just four NBA players in program history. Also, NBA draft records show just six picks from the school, the last being Roberto Bergersen in 1999.

The most notable NBA player from Boise State is Chris Childs, the point guard who averaged 6.9 points in 541 games over nine seasons from 1994-2003.

The previous school record for points of 42 was set by Ron Austin way back in 1971. The most-recent 40-point outing was in 1979 by Carl Powell and Hutchison’s performance marked only the fourth time a Boise State player reached 40.

It certainly was the best performance I’ve seen live by a Boise State player since I moved from Paradise (San Diego) to Paradise Junior (Boise). The previous best effort was a game I covered in 2013 when Derrick Marks scored 33 second-half points and 38 overall in a victory over Colorado State.

Oh yeah, some Boise media types actually were floating the idea Marks would get drafted and I cringed. As in where is the perspective? But yeah, many of them were also stunned when a Boise State quarterback named Grant Hedrick didn’t get selected in the 2015 NFL draft.

Take it from a guy who spent eight seasons watching NFL practices, Hedrick would’ve needed the NFL draft to go back to 17 rounds to have a chance to be selected.

You know, let’s not even discuss Kellen Moore.

The same media folks were stunned a basketball player named James Webb III didn’t get picked in the 2016 NBA draft. Well, I covered nearly 20 of Webb’s games at Boise State and I never once said the following to myself: “Hey, there’s a future NBA player.”

Webb plays for the Delaware 87ers. And if you have to be a minor league hoops player, at least having your team called the 87ers is pretty cool. Beats playing in Lithuania.

In other words, I’ll tell you the real deal. Saturday night at Taco Bell Arena was the very first time I’ve seen a Boise State player that caused me to say, “Now that’s a future NBA player.”

Chandler Hutchison will without a doubt be selected in the NBA draft. And perhaps he will become the fifth Boise State player to suit up for an NBA game. Maybe he ends up playing a decade in the NBA. Who knows?

What I know is that as of Saturday night, Hutchison is etched in the books as one of the top Boise State players ever. And the night he torched San Diego State for a school-record 44 points will still be talked about in 2071. 

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Good thing I took that vow of objectivity a quarter century ago and don’t have to root for teams.

Because it would be really hard to choose a team to cheer for in Monday’s College Football Playoff title game.

Pretty sure most people who don’t live in the South are tired of having how great the SEC teams are. Unfortunately, the conference will be able to claim a national championship no matter who wins Monday when Alabama and Georgia meet in Atlanta.

It will be the SEC’s ninth national championship in the past 12 seasons.

The Crimson Tide are striving to win their fifth title during Nick Saban’s 11 seasons as coach.

Hey, not impressed? How about this: They beat Mercer by eight touchdowns.

Of course, most major-college programs wouldn’t play Mercer. (Wait, we LOVE Mercer, the basketball program that sent Duke home in 2014!)

And what about Georgia? The Bulldogs beat Samford by four touchdowns this season. OK, so nobody knows if Samford (and Son?) has ever accomplished anything big on the athletic stage.

But yeah, they still pay me to make a prediction so I do have a winner for you. Right here inside the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/alabama-vs-georgia-preview-and-predictions/232916/

Both Georgia and Alabama lost one game this season and it was to the same team — Auburn.

That makes things a little dicey because Auburn lost to FOUR other teams.

Of course, Georgia got revenge by defeating Auburn in the SEC championship game but the Tigers lost their Peach Bowl matchup with Central Florida.

Unbeaten Central Florida … a school that has declared itself national champions and will hold a parade on Monday afternoon.

Might as well name yourself the national champion when you consider the fact that the chairman of the CFP committee is the athletic director at Texas Tech.

Um, yeah, nobody who is serious about identifying who the best college football teams are would ever choose the Texas Tech AD to play the leading role. Doesn’t look like Kirby Hocutt knows football that well when his own program has experienced three losing campaigns in the past four seasons.

Just think, Kirby’s committee lists Central Florida at No. 12. Yes, No. 12!

So the school that named itself national champs wouldn’t even have been part of an eight-team playoff. Now that is ridiculous.

But on Monday night, we put all this nonsense aside.

And we wait to see if playing Mercer helped prepare Alabama to win another crown. Or if that tussle with Samford was that piece of the puzzle Georgia desperately needed.

Hard to root for either team when you break it down like that.

There is no debate that Marshall Faulk is the best running back in San Diego State history. He still will be 100 years from now — well, if football still exists.

But it also should be pretty clear who ranks No. 2 on the top Aztecs’ back list.  

That would be the current star — Walter Camp Player of the Year finalist Rashaad Penny.

Penny leads the nation with 2,027 rushing yards and has a stellar 7.4 average to go with 19 rushing scores. He has topped 200 yards on five occasions this season and had just one poor contest when he gained just 53 yards on 21 carries during a loss to Boise State.

He also matched the all-time record for career kickoff return touchdowns with seven.

When this month began, Deacon Turner was still the second-best running back in San Diego State history. You can still call him BBF – Best Before Faulk.

But it is now clear that Penny is No. 2, which is plenty amazing when you consider he was the backup to NCAA all-time rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey last season. I wondered a few times if Penny was the best back on the San Diego State roster while he was rushing for 1,005 yards.

We got the answer. He was the best this season. He was the best last season. He would be the best in any season in Aztecs’ history other than the Faulk Years (1991-93).

So we need to have a definitive Top 10 list of San Diego State running backs. I saw most everyone on the list play — ummm, not Norm Nygaard (1952-54) of course — so I am the right person to compile it.

Surely don’t want anyone at the school messing up the list. When I was on the beat and Lynell Hamilton was having a big freshman season in 2003, the game notes didn’t have Darrin Wagner listed among the school’s top-ever freshman rushing leaders.

I told the guy of the omission and he just stared at me. He finally said, “Who?”

That’s what happens when universities hire people who don’t know the school history.

Anyway, the next year I turned to the page in the media guide and guess whose rushing yardage from 1989 had been added to the freshman leaders?

Yep, Darrin Wagner.

OK, here are the Top 10 running backs in San Diego State history:

 

1. Marshall Faulk — San Diego State had never landed a talent like this and benefited that major schools wanted him to play cornerback. Well, their loss as Faulk set the then single-game rushing record of 386 yards before he ever started a game and got the Aztecs unprecedented national publicity. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1992 as ESPN’s Lee Corso repeatedly belittled the fact Faulk played at San Diego State and single-handedly prevented him from winning the award. Faulk rushed for 4,589 and 57 touchdowns in his three seasons before becoming an NFL Hall of Famer.

2. Rashaad Penny — See above for the superlatives but ranking fourth in school history with 3,435 rushing yards (and likely soon to be third) is pretty impressive when you were just a starter for one season.

3. Deacon Turner — He had a first name of David but nobody ever used it when discussing his exploits. He was the star of back-to-back 10-1 teams – there weren’t 322 bowl games back then — and was part of the biggest victory in school history, the 41-16 slaughter of No. 13 Florida State in 1977. He fell on hard times after his NFL career ended and isn’t in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, which is a travesty. Claude Gilbert, who coached Turner, was a defensive coordinator at San Diego State in the mid-1990s and told me then that the committee had once decided to induct the Deacon but backed off because it was worried about what kind of shape he was in or if he would even show. Well, the guy is dead now so that’s not an issue. Turner’s absence needs to be rectified because he was one of the biggest difference-makers in school history.

4. Ronnie Hillman — You could go with any order for Hillman and the following two guys but Hillman (3,243 yards, 36 touchdowns) would have shattered Faulk’s then-record if he hadn’t mistakenly left for the NFL after two seasons. He was better than the Mountain West level and repeatedly put up big numbers.

5. Donnel Pumphrey — He’s the all-time NCAA rushing leader (6,405 yards) as long as they don’t reinstate bowl stats from the old days (then it will be Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne) and rushed for 62 touchdowns. The craziest stat is he racked up 33 100-yard outings during his career — heck, the ESPN folks will make a power-conference player a star with three 100-yard games.

6. George Jones — One of the more muscle-toned running backs ever seen and he was the first to break Faulk’s single-season mark when he compiled 1,842 yards in 1995. He had four career 200-yard games while rolling up 2,810 yards and 34 touchdowns over two seasons.

7. Norm Nygaard — I was told by a longtime school expert that this guy was the top running back prior to Deacon Turner’s arrival and that is good enough for me. He rushed for 2,619 yards from 1952-54 and that was well before running backs got 20 to 25 carries per game so perhaps he could have doubled that total with today’s workloads.

8. Chris Hardy — He had a big junior season (1,150 yards in 1985) and then was one of the top players on one of the more beloved teams in school history — the 1986 Holiday Bowl team. He rushed for 2,341 yards and 22 touchdowns.

9. Larry Ned — He ranks third in school history with 3,562 yards and rushed for 36 touchdowns. He once rushed for 285 yards against Eastern Illinois in 2001 — the quarterback of Eastern Illinois was a guy named Tony Romo.

10. Wayne Pittman — Here’s a guy you don’t hear a lot about and that is because he had the unfortunate timing of being Faulk’s backup for three seasons. But he rushed for 1,136 yards in his lone season as a starter (1994) and that is good enough for me.

 

Missing the cut — Lynell Hamilton (2003-07) was a star as a freshman before a badly broken leg and a 22-month absence changed everything. … Adam Muema (2011-13) had rushing seasons of 1,458 and 1,244 yards before mistakenly turning pro and basically disappearing. … Paul Hewitt (28 scores from 1987-88) was a touchdown machine as a junior-college transfer. … Art Preston (34 touchdowns from 1949-51) has his name plate in the football locker room so that tells me all I need to know. … Jonas Lewis (1996-99) was consistently good while racking up 2,843 yards.

So I haven’t done Weekly Links in a while but the night before Thanksgiving seems like a perfect time.

It is a little bit foggy outside and I sure have no interest in hitting up any retail stores that think “Black Friday” started two, three or four days before FRIDAY.

Plus, it is also a good time to talk about turkeys.

Oh, I think I spelled Chargers wrong … um, yeah, turkeys equal Chargers.

You can upgrade that to buffoon if we bring Dean Spanos into the conversation.

But bad news for all San Diegans, I see the Turkeys defeating the Dallas Cowboys in their first Thanksgiving game since 1969.

People knew Dallas would miss Ezekiel Elliott during his girl-punching (allegedly) suspension but it appears that the team’s true MVP is left tackle Tyron Smith. The Cowboys have allowed 12 sacks during his two-game injury absence and Smith might sit out Thursday too.

Since you can’t double-team both Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, common sense dictates that Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott will be running for his life a few times.

Don’t tell anyone I picked the Chargers … of course, the proof is in the stellar preview: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/-chargers-vs-cowboys-preview-and-predictions/220578/

 

I had one goal when I got the national preview assignment for the Apple Cup showdown and that was this: To get into print that Washington State and Washington played to a 5-5 tie in 1900.

No typos there … a 5-5 football game. Now that is crazy.

Of course, I’m the same guy who covered the first 11-10 score in NFL history in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked a late field to defeat the Chargers.

But who has ever seen a 5-5 football score?

Funny thing about this game is that it is Washington State playing for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. Washington can only be spoilers. If the Huskies win, Stanford gets the berth.

That means Washington is currently only the third-best team in its division and fourth best overall in the Pac-12. And coach Chris Peterson is getting a bit touchy that some people aren’t thrilled that the very well-paid coach isn’t going to have his team in the conference title game.

But there was a moment in a press conference this week that defies all logic and it pertained to the Huskies scoring 10 points in the final minute to defeat Utah.

Q: Was that finish Saturday as exciting a finish as you’ve been a part of?

ME: Apparently, the media person never heard of the Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma.

Wow … here is the stellar preview:    http://www.espn.com/ncf/preview/_/id/400935330

 

The Iron Bowl is Saturday and Auburn needs a victory over Alabama to keep alive its College Football Playoff hopes.

Seems odd that a two-loss team can still have an opportunity to be one of the last four teams standing but there are different rules for SEC teams than the other leagues.

Kind of like nobody wants to make SEC commissioner Craig Sankey mad in case they want to take an athletic director’s job at an SEC school sometime. Or risk receiving a phone call from an irate Nick Saban.

The Tigers are currently No. 6 and if they beat Saban’s Crimson Tide, they would face No. 7 Georgia (one loss) in the SEC title game. You can kind of see what is on the horizon.

An Auburn win in the SEC title game gets the Tigers in as the No. 4 seed in the CFP. And a Georgia win just may get the Bulldogs in at No. 4 because then they split two games with Auburn.

That means the loser of the ACC title game between Clemson and Miami is in line to get shafted. So is Wisconsin unless it is 13-0. Being 12-1 with the loss to Ohio State isn’t going to do it for the Badgers.

Anyway, Alabama and Auburn should be a good game and here is the stellar preview: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/-alabama-vs-auburn-preview-and-predictions/220799/

 

Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox squared off for the first time as NBA players on Wednesday night and their matchup was a draw.

Fox got to walk off the floor with a smile as the Sacramento Kings posted a 113-102 victory over Ball’s Los Angeles Lakers. But the statistical matchup favored Ball.

Ball had 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four turnovers, while Fox had 13 points, three assists and five turnovers.

Their first matchup received a lot of attention because of the way Fox terrorized Ball in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last March when he scored a career-best 39 points. That performance paved the way for Fox to rise all the way up to the fifth overall pick. Ball, of course, was selected second.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Fox will be the better NBA player. Check back with me in 2023.

Anyway, this was the stellar preview that was published before the game was played: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/basketball/NBA/-lakers-vs-kings-preview-and-predictions/220583/

 

Can’t do a weekly links without this quick mention. Kansas is playing Oakland on Friday — that’s the Golden Grizzlies, not the Raiders — and a player named Jalen Hayes will be making his season debut for Oakland.

You see, Hayes received a four-game academic suspension from the NCAA for not making “satisfactory progress toward a degree” after he received a 2.5 in a class in his major last spring when Oakland requires a 2.8.

Oh, but Hayes is slated to graduate in December. Sounds like he is making a lot of progress toward his degree, doesn’t it?

But the same group of people who closed their eyes to academic fraud at North Carolina — a money-making school — penalized the star player from a lower-echelon university. Quite the joke — and count Kansas coach Bill Self among the folks who think the situation was poorly handled.

“They get him back,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said of Hayes. “He was ineligible the first four games for a screwy academic rule.”

Screwy academic rule says it all. Thanks, Coach.

Here is the stellar preview:    https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/basketball/ncaab/oakland-vs-kansas-preview-and-predictions/220737/

The first World Series Game 7 between two teams that won 100 or more games since 1931 has arrived.

Bet you didn’t know it had been 86 years since that happened.

But the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers and 101-win Houston Astros play the deciding game of a very fine World Series on Wednesday.

And I know you are dying to hear which team I think will be really happy late Wednesday night.

Uh oh, it looks like I’m not going to make it easy for you to find out.

Yes, I am making you click twice to see which team I am predicting to win Game 7 of the World Series.

Not because I suddenly care about the number of “clicks” I get on my website (I don’t care at all).

Not because the website I am linking to is paying me (they don’t even know I exist, I just like that they keep them up forever, unlike the bigger sports websites).

But you get to click on the stellar preview because there is valuable information enclosed that just shouldn’t be obtained super duper easy.

Because then you won’t appreciate this great piece of knowledge you will know all day Wednesday.

So here goes, I am picking the … ohhh, almost … you will find the pick inside the stellar preview: http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/mlb/astros-vs-dodgers-preview-and-predictions/215192/

Yeah, the last baseball preview of the season. Probably should count up someday to see how many I have written this decade.

But if I do that, I will want to count up all the NBA, NFL, college football and college basketball previews I’ve written too. And then the recaps. And then the breaking news. And on and on.

Yeah, so probably not that big of a deal to figure that out.

This World Series is much a bigger deal. Check out my pick and see if it comes through.

What a great World Series we have all got to witness so far.

And think, we are just one Houston Astros’ victory away from it being even greater.

Oh no, I just hurt the feelings of a few Los Angeles Dodgers’ fans. I keep forgetting that some of them can read.

Yeah, there’s my cue — you can read the stellar Game 6 preview with prediction here — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/MLB/astros-vs-dodgers-preview-and-predictions/214868/

Seriously though, what a terrific World Series no matter who ends up victorious. In fact, what a comeback it would be if the Dodgers win the next two games.

Game 2 and Game 5 were two of the wackiest World Series’ games you will find. Two of the best of this decade — Game 6 of the St. Louis Cardinals-Texas Rangers matchup in 2011 remains the best.

Justin Verlander takes the mound on Tuesday and he has been fabulous since joining the Astros. But don’t forget this: He has never won a World Series game.

After the no-decision in Game 2, the probable Hall of Famer is 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in four career World Series starts.

Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers and the obvious question is “for how long?” In fact, that should be the biggest worry of all Los Angeles fans: Is Dave Roberts going to overmanage and cost the team Game 6?

Think about it, Astros manager A.J. Hinch was the MVP in the 13-12, 10-inning game on Sunday that took five hours, 17 minutes. All because he pinch-ran for glacier slow Brian McCann with Derek Fisher right before Alex Bregman delivered the winning single.

Anyway, enjoy Game 6. So much craziness in this series. So many clutch hits. So many homers (hello juiced baseballs) seemingly traveling 3,000 feet. So much weirdness. So many pitching changes. So much drama. So much class and fun (well, except for that embarrassing racial gesture by Houston’s Yuli Gurriel).

So … who really knows what else is in store come Game 6.

Well, hey, Weekly Links is making a surprise appearance. So busy with the paid work this time of year that it is hard to fit in free ventures (sure hope you don’t think I am making millions on my cozy website!)

So here goes … a little baseball, a little more NFL and a little college football. Sorry, not posting NBA as the preview shelf life is limited and who knows where you might end up after you click.

 

The World Series starts on Tuesday and the main storyline will revolve around perhaps the greatest pitcher of this era.

But as we all know, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw hasn’t stood up well under the playoff pressure during his career.

So will be it regular season Kershaw or “Postseason Kershaw” when the Dodgers play in the World Series for the first time since 1988?

Kershaw was seven months old and sleeping in a crib the last time the Dodgers were part of the Fall Classic.

How long has it been since the Dodgers played in the World Series? Well, consider the San Diego Padres’ drought was 10 years shorter.

That’s pretty sad when you consider all the money the Dodgers spend.

But this is their time with a team that won 104 regular-season games … and they definitely need “Regular Season Kershaw” taking the mound … see stellar story here — http://hosted.stats.com/mlb/story.asp?i=20171020172054085065710&ref=rec&tm=&src=MLB

 

Tom Brady might get the most praise but I feel Aaron Rodgers is the most “valuable” quarterback in the NFL.

We start to see if that is assessment is correct when the Green Bay Packers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Rodgers is out for at least eight weeks due to a broken collarbone and former UCLA star Brett Hundley will start in his place. Hundley has excelled in each of the past three preseasons but he wasn’t so hot when replacing Rodgers last Sunday as he threw three interceptions in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Hundley is a stellar athlete so it will be interesting to see how he fares. But no matter how he performs, we know this: He’s no Aaron Rodgers.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/saints-vs-packers-preview-and-predictions/212295/

 

It was pretty fun to have the Week 1 assignment when the Chargers and Broncos played in Denver.

It was even more entertaining to watch the Chargers have their game-tying field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds.

The Chargers lost their first four games after relocating from San Diego and their running defense is so poor that I’m thinking Terrell Davis could suit up this Sunday and threaten the 100-yard mark.

The Broncos haven’t played well lately — what a gag job that was against the woeful New York Giants last Sunday night — so that unfortunately means the Chargers have a chance to win a third straight game.

Sure don’t want that … seeing the Chargers fall to 2-5 and on the way to their consecutive double-digit loss season would be much more fun.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/nfl/broncos-vs-chargers-preview-and-predictions/212300/

 

I’ve been kind of wondering why we have to continue playing the college football season and having all this debate about which four teams should be part of the College Football Playoff.

Can you find three teams in the nation that can beat Alabama? How about two? OK, one?

Penn State, Georgia and TCU are the teams ranked 2, 3 and 4. How about we take the best players off those three teams and see if they can give Alabama a game?

None of those three teams will win the national championship. The list of teams that can ends at one: Alabama.

The Crimson Tide get to pound Tennessee this Saturday. Apparently, people around Tennessee have finally figured out Butch Jones isn’t an SEC-caliber coach. Things could really get ugly against the Crimson Tide.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/-tennessee-vs-alabama-preview-and-predictions/212112/

Perhaps you remember the Exxon commercial that played over and over again for a month in the middle of the NBA playoffs.

The kinda-nerdy, kinda-cool woman introduces herself as … Kelsey McNeely, energy farmer.

So let’s borrow from that tone to help a Northern Illinois linebacker introduce himself to the sports world.

Antonio Jones-Davis, eye gouger.

Few people had heard of him before Saturday night but nothing like video proof that you are an eye gouger to get your name to go viral.

I was in the middle of my Saturday night work shift and had only looked at the television a couple times. But I happened to look up and a play had just ended in the Northern Illinois versus San Diego State game and all of a sudden I see a white-gloved hand go somewhere it doesn’t belong (yeah, save your Michael Jackson jokes).

I was stunned that Jones-Davis put his right hand inside the facemask of San Diego State star running back Rashaad Penny.

They showed the replay and that made it clear it was an intentional act.

Just like that — Antonio Jones-Davis, eye gouger was the proper label.

See this stellar story for more detail and information — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=20&story_id=177913.

Jones-Davis, eye gouger was suspended for one game by Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey. The coach said Jones-Davis plans to call Penny and Aztecs coach Rocky Long to apologize.

Carey asserted that the conduct of Jones-Davis was “completely unacceptable” and I think that is something we can all agree on.

Bad mistake and caught on tape. Not the way a college football player wants to become known.

But for now, there is only one way to address the young man … “Hey, aren’t you Antonio Jones-Davis, eye gouger?”

Monday is that dreaded night for San Diegans who vociferously supported the Chargers for the past 56 seasons.

Friday was the rough day for me because I happened to draw the preview assignment for the Chargers’ opener against the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

I took that vow of journalistic objectivity a quarter century ago and play no favorites – or enemies – when being paid to produce work. Whatever needs to be written is done so and always in a professional manner.

But this preview was a different assignment in many ways.

It is the Chargers’ first game since abandoning a city that cheered them unconditionally, never more evident than the night 75,000 people filled the stadium on a Sunday night to welcome the team home after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

It is the same city that was treated rudely by Dean Spanos the past few years, never more so than 2016 when the club had to play in San Diego because NFL owners didn’t vote for the team’s Los Angeles relocation proposal. Spanos was crushed not to gain approval and imagine all the fake at-chance conversations he had with fans of the team he encountered (you know, on the days he actually wasn’t afraid to leave his La Jolla house).

So when it came to the sentence that needed to be written in the preview, I swallowed hard and said it in the proper journalistic way even though the most honest way would have been to write that “spineless Dean Spanos picked up his longtime squad of losers and will now mis-manage it in smoggy Los Angeles, where they don’t even care about his miserable organization.”

Instead, the professional way won out and rings out soundly as the wording reminds the reader of the travesty without bordering on a cheap shot … “while the Chargers play their initial game since unceremoniously ditching San Diego after 56 seasons.”

Read the stellar preview here: http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/football/nfl-preview.aspx?page=/data/NFL/matchups/g1_preview_44.html

I went to dozens of Chargers’ games as a kid and later covered the team as a professional for seven seasons. Once you cover a team and are around that type of nonsense – lots of petty things that fans don’t see and can’t wrap their heads around – you really could care less about the team.

But yeah, remember last September when I said the Chargers would lose to the Cleveland Browns? And they came through in December when they visited Cleveland, being the ONLY NFL team to lose to the horrific Browns.

That is the memory that sticks with me as Spineless Spanos took his sorry team to Smogville. Losing to the truly lousy Browns.

Spanos failed to land a new stadium, he signed off on the move to hire Norv Turner as coach, he was fired up about the drafting of Ryan Leaf, and he promoted his own kids to top-level positions in the organization to run it for basically the next 30-to-40 years.

Who wants a guy like that polluting the San Diego sports scene any longer?

So instead of ignoring the Chargers on Monday night, I will turn on the game because it will be fun to see the Chargers do what they do best: Come up short just like their so-called leader.

Dang, imagine if I could write THAT type of stuff in the preview.

A co-worker labeled me as “our resident tennis expert” and I am still deciphering those words.

Guess I won’t be able to shed that label after pounding out a U.S. Open preview in 40 minutes.

The stellar tennis preview marks the return of Weekly Links — just one in this case: https://www.upi.com/Sports_News/Tennis/2017/08/27/2017-US-Open-preview-seedings-Rafael-Nadal-Roger-Federer-the-main-attractions/4621503877092/

Still trying to digest this “tennis expert” tag and whether I should view it as a compliment.

I mean, I didn’t even know what Stan Wawrinka looked like until a few weeks before he won the 2016 U.S. Open. And Agnieszka Radwanska was the No. 1 seed at a women’s tournament last week and I wouldn’t know who she was if she knocked on my door.

Oh yeah, I have never written the name of Novak Djokovic on this website. Well, until now.

I did attend the women’s tennis tournament at La Costa a few times before that event disappeared from the San Diego sports scene. But I wasn’t there covering people serving aces and delivering pinpoint backhands.

Oh yeah, I never paid admission either.

But click on the link and you will find the enticing angle of legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer possibly meeting for the first time at the U.S. Open should both reach the semifinals.

Let that sink in, those two guys have played 37 times and none of those meetings occurred at Arthur Ashe Stadium. And they have combined to win seven U.S. Open titles – five by Federer.

The women’s draw is far less compelling with Serena Williams away due to pregnancy. Neither of the top two seeds – No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and No. 2 Simona Halep – have won a Grand Slam event and both have developed a reputation for wilting under the pressure of the big-time events.

Oh wait, that bordered on something a tennis aficionado would know.

Hmmm, going to be hard to shake this label.

It makes me think about covering the Crew Classic rowing regatta in San Diego five or six times. Heck, spending a Sunday on Crown Shores Point wasn’t the worst spring-time gig but now I wonder if the former co-workers were calling me “our resident rowing expert” behind my back.

Yeah, certainly, the saying things behind my back part probably rings true. But please leave rowing expert out of the sentence.

Back to tennis — did you know if you Google Caroline Wozniacki, you find about 40 pictures of her in a bikini for each one in a tennis outfit?

She happens to be the No. 5 seed at the U.S. Open. And she’s 0-6 in finals this season.

There you go, the top-flight info that only a tennis expert can provide.