Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday 12/31 Quickie:
New Year's Eve Edition!

In classic Quickie style, my 2006 Superlatives:

Best personal moment of the year? Birth of first kid.

Best sports moment of the year? Florida wins NCAA Tournament.

Worst personal moment of the year? Cancellation of the Quickie.

Worst sports moment of the year? Um... cancellation of the Quickie. (Can that count for both?)

Wow, talk about your highs and lows! So: What were YOUR best moments of '06, either sports or otherwise? (I won't make you describe your worst moments. Let's hope they weren't as public as mine.)

Meanwhile, you can talk NFL in the Comments, too, but what's the point when Week 17 is so otherwise meaningless? (Say this for college football's controversial set-up: At least the final week of the regular season meant something -- and it dominated the conversation.)

If I don't connect with you later today, have a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve, and I'll catch you here tomorrow for Bowl mania.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 29, 2006

At the (End-of-Year) Buzzer!
My Annual New Year's Hot/Not List

What's out with 2006? What's in for 2007? Thanks to the folks at Deadspin for publishing my annual "What's Hot, What's Not" List for the new year, maintaining my streak through the 21st century. Here's the link.

Some of my favorites:

Free agent
2006: Daisuke Matsuzaka
2007: Bill Simmons

Monday Night Football gimmick
2006: Tony K.
2007: Tiki

Courtside Groupie
2006: Britney Spears
2007: Carrie Underwood

Sports city
2006: Pittsburgh
2007: Las Vegas

2006: Titans No. 10 (Young)
2007: Nuggets No. 3 (Iverson)

Human mascot
2006: Jason McElwain
2007: Rory Fitzpatrick

Oh, Just STFU Already
2006: Michael Irvin
2007: Joe Buck

2006: The Daily Quickie
2007: Quite Frankly

Click here to read the rest. (Sorry for the freaky formatting.) And, for the first time in Hot/Not List history, use the Comments sections to suggest your own!

PS: And here's a link to last year's edition, which has links to the previous five years, too. (If you're an Insider, you'll have access. Otherwise, you're s.o.l., I'm afraid.)

Weekend Football Preview:
NFL Tanking-Mania Plus CFB Bowlin'

Let's be honest here: NFL Week 17 SEEMED exciting last Sunday, but since has fizzled as reality has set in that it's not THAT in doubt.

The NFC could be sewn up as early as Saturday. If the Giants beat the Redskins, they're a virtual Wild Card lock and an esteemed member of the .500 Playoff Team Club.

More intriguing: What if the Giants LOSE? (As they certainly deserve to.) The Packers are next in line but end in Chicago. On its face, that looks like a crushing loss, but what motivation do the Bears have to play anyone but taxi-squadders, having already locked up NFC HFA? I retch at the thought of coverage of Brett Favre in the playoffs, buoyed only by the reality that he and the Packers would get destroyed next week.

The AFC has two teams who Control Their Own Destiny (which remains one of the all-time great phrases in sports): The Jets, who play the hapless Raiders (who have no incentive to win, given their dogfight with the Lions for the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick), and the Broncos, who play the 49ers, who – at this point – have no incentive to win and consequently tumble down the draft board.

(The Bengals, Titans, Jags and Chiefs all need help. Of course, the Jags and Chiefs play each other. The Bengals can put the final nail in the 2006 coffin of the Steelers. The Titans play the Pats, which would be a loss in any other week, but given the Pats have nothing to gain by playing hard, Tennessee could end as the hottest team in the NFL yet still not make the playoffs, even though at this point, they'd be favored to win the NFC.)

Week 17 in the NFL always brings me back to my ongoing debate with readers about Tanking. Though many are loathe to admit it, there are several times when tanking isn't just justified, but optimal. This weekend showcases two:

(1) Non-playoff teams tanking for draft position. It's not just the Lions and Raiders jockeying for No. 1 overall. Why would any non-playoff-contending team try to win and mess up a critical draft slot (or several)?

(2) Playoff teams tanking because they have no reason to win. Call it the Colts Rule. As long as playoff position – a bye week or home-field advantage – isn't on the line, wouldn't a team feel stupid if one of their starters were injured in what is otherwise a meaningless game? And so the coaches hold as many talents out as possible, and you get the feeling that if the NFL gave them an option to simply forfeit the game and not put ANY players at risk, they would not only do it, but stake out the competitive high road while doing it.

Let me say it again: In a week like this, tanking the game is arguably the SUPERIOR option for several/many teams. And yet no one seems to really care, because the fans of non-playoff teams are already looking to the draft (and optimal draft position) for hope and fans of playoff teams don't want to see the team get a key injury before the playoffs, when the games actually matter. (Thus, by implication: For so many teams, this game just doesn't matter.)

I'm going to skip game-by-game predictions and go straight to this:

The Jets and the Broncos will be the AFC Wild Card teams, and the Giants will somehow fall ass-backwards into a playoff spot (though it's not like any of the other NFC 6-seed contenders deserve it more). Otherwise, tank away!

Meanwhile, there are 10 college football bowls running through Monday. Saturday's three are worth watching to see Texas' fall from BCS title-game glory to the Alamo Bowl and to see Georgia freshman QB Matt Stafford take on the VA Tech defense. Sunday is a single bowl game: Larry Coker's swan song on the blue turf of the MPC Computers Bowl. I'm going to save my analysis of Jan. 1 bowls until Monday morning, but I'm personally most interested in the Rose Bowl (obvs) and the Arkansas-Wisconsin Cap One Bowl game, which should illuminate whether Wisco was as overrated as everyone thinks they are or whether Arkansas wasn't the bellweather win for Florida everyone gave the Gators credit for. (Oh, and Boise State pulling a "2004 Utah" and stomping Oklahoma for an unbeaten season and at least a nominally plausible claim at a share of the national title.)

More later.

-- D.S.

Friday 12/29 A.M. Quickie:
Last Weekday of 2006!

Thoughts on the final weekday of 2006 as I ponder the idea of Foremanning up some delicious cloned beef steaks this weekend...

Largest. Contract. Ever. (At least for a pitcher.) Barry Zito gets 7Y/$126M from the... Giants?!

A prediction for 2007: Behind a "Barry and Barry!" marketing campaign, Zito wins the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.

And what is the residual impact on the Mets, who were so hot for Zito? Another prediction for 2007: The Mets trade for Dontrelle Willis.

Bob Knight falls short of becoming all-time winningest coach. I haven't really talked about this much. Is he the greatest college coach of all time? (Or, maybe, given the John Wooden Factor, of the ESPN Era?) Is he better than Coach K? Does it impact your decision to factor in that K learned from Knight?

Prediction for 2007: Knight sets the all-time college hoops wins record. (Big leap, I know. Hey, they don't ALL have to be bold.)

Grizzlies fire coach Mike Fratello. After their woeful start, is this really a surprise? But who would have guessed that Fratello would have fewer than half as many wins as... Isiah Thomas?

Prediction for 2007: Memphis wins the NBA Draft Lottery and drafts Greg Oden after realizing they are in an amazing position to tank the rest of the season to get him.

Rutgers beats Kansas State in Texas Bowl: First-ever bowl win for Rutgers, who became the Cinderella story of the 2006 college football season. (And the No. 2-ranked Cindy of the year behind George Mason. No, the Steelers don't count as a "Cinderella," even though they were the worst-seeded playoff team to win the Super Bowl in NFL history.)

Prediction for 2007: Rutgers will match this season's 10 regular-season wins and Ray Rice (170 yards in the Texas Bowl) will finish Top 3 in Heisman voting. But they will NOT win the Big East's BCS bid, which will go to West Virginia.

(More Bowls: Cal stomps Texas A&M, Oklahoma State edges Alabama.)

College Football: Gone Bowlin'. Big lineup today:

Music City: Was it so long ago that Clemson was a hot pick to be the ACC's BCS team? Yes, it was. (Clemson over Kentucky)

Sun Bowl: Was it so long ago that Missouri was a hot pick to be the Big 12's BCS team? Yes, it was. (Missouri over Oregon State)

Liberty: Was it so long ago that Steve Spurrier nearly knocked Florida out of BCS title contention at the Swamp? Yes, it was. (S. Carolina over Houston)

Insight: It's your last chance in 2006 to watch Mike Leach's innovative Red Raiders offense. Yarrrr! (Texas Tech over Minnesota)

Champs Sports: Maryland is a poor man's Wake Forest. What does THAT say? (Maryland over Purdue)

(Weekend bowl – and NFL – preview coming later today.)

NBA Last Night: Mavs eke out a last-second win over the Suns. (Prediction for 2007: That's flip-flopped in the Western Conference Finals.) Nuggets beat the Sonics behind AI's 44. Wow. (Prediction for 2007: Overheated playoff expectations for Denver fizzle when they lose in the West semis.)

NFL: How about that rare "double-doubleheader" on Sunday when CBS and Fox get to both show doubleheaders? Should be enough to keep everyone satisfied. More on the NFL's final weekend later.

Prediction for 2007: Needless to say, I expect a let-down weekend, with the Jets/Broncos and Giants claiming the remaining Wild Card spots and the only fun being that the Giants make the Wild Card as a .500 team.

College Hoops Parity Watch: USC beats No. 14 Washington. Wow, between that and USC's win over Wichita State, the Trojans are off to an impressive start. And this is WITHOUT OJ Mayo. Meanwhile, Clemson moved to 13-0. Also: No. 1 UCLA survived a slow-down game with underrated Washington State.

Prediction for 2007: Both USC and Clemson lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UCLA loses in the Elite Eight.

What a 2006 for Durham DA Mike Nifong: He goes from the most high-profile criminal investigation of the year (Duke LAX) to being charged with ethics violations by the North Caronlina state bar. (Prediction for 2007: By next year's end, we'll be going... "Who?")

Must-Read: My friends Jason and Carl at the WSJ's Daily Fix have a list of their Top 10 sports columns of 2006. I don't see any Daily Quickie editions on there, but I won't hold it against them. Here's the link.

More coming later today, including NFL and CFB bowl posts, plus predictions for 2007, my annual Hot/Not List and more!

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday 12/28 A.M. Quickie:
Knicks, Zito, NFL D POY, Tiger, More!

How's this for an unexpected end-of-year event: The Knicks are 13-18 (and one game out of first place in the Atlantic Division) after beating Detroit, the best team in the East, in 3 OT last night.

Isiah Thomas for NBA Coach of the Year? It's not as crazy as it sounds. As of right now, he'd get my vote, simply for defying the common expectations that the Knicks would be a lot closer to 31 losses than 13 wins right now.

(For the record, Isiah is three games ahead of Larry Brown's pace after 31 games last season. And, remember: When Brown's team reached 13 wins a year ago, they lost 16 of their next 17 and 20 of 22. Watch the Knicks' next stretch of 22 games before the All-Star Break.)

But, really, who would have thought Isiah would have them playing with this level of success, particularly winning 4 of 5 since the Brawl?

More NBA: Fantasy Line of the Night: Gerald Wallace, who had 40 points, 14 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 blocks in a loss to the Wizards (who got 39 from the sizzling Gilbert Arenas). It was the type of game that Wallace fans have been expecting all year.

MLB ROIDS: How quickly before someone in the government leaks the names of the 100 MLB players who tested positive for steroids in 2003? (And who wants to bet that Barry Bonds' name isn't on the list?)

MLB HOT STOVE: Rangers give Zito an ultimatum: He has until the weekend to accept their six-year offer. Between Boras' advice and the Rangers trading for Brandon McCarthy, I think Zito will hold out for the Yankees/Mets/Mariners offer.

NFL AWARDS: Jason Taylor smacks Shawne Merriman! Dolphins DE says Chargers LB shouldn't be eligible for NFL Defensive Player of the Year because of his steroid suspension. (Silly, Jason: If it wasn't for PEDs, there wouldn't be an NFL!)

NFL CONTRACTS: What are the Bucs thinking? The team gave injured QB Chris Simms a 2-year contract extension that Simms reportedly called "starter's money." I prefer to call it "fool's gold."

CFB BOWLIN': Where was that Florida State team all year long? Maybe it's just that Bobby Bowden is the sport's biggest Bowl-Master; maybe they should re-position their schedule so every week has a "bowl" name.

Meanwhile, THIS was the UCLA team that stifled USC? Just goes to show how out of their minds the Bruins played in their ultimate rivalry game. Against FSU? By comparison, they had nothing to play for.

AP Story of the Year: Tiger's season. Seems like kind of a cop-out, given that the AP gave him Male Athlete of the Year and "season" isn't exactly a story. (For example: At what point in a "season" is it defined as a single story, rather than a lot of small stories?)

I've been going back to this well a lot, but if I had to pick a single best Story of the Year, it would be Texas' national-title win over USC. Just because it happened the first week of the year doesn't mean it should be forgotten.

Finally, any comments about's ranking of every state by its football power? Including high school, college and pros, they have Texas ranked No. 1. I don't have a quibble with that, but I'm pretty sure they'll get some arguments down the line.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday 12/27: Gerald Ford No. 1!
(in Presidential Athletic Power Rankings!)

If nothing else, the late Gerald Ford holds the title of the most athletic U.S. president. In an exclusive analysis, Ford leads the first-ever (and possibly last-ever)...

All-Time U.S. President Athleticism Power Rankings!

Ford was, by far, our most athletic (and athletically accomplished) President: He was a three-year center for Michigan's football team on two undefeated national championship teams ('32, '33), and the team's MVP in '34. He had offers to go to the NFL, but turned them down to go to law school.

Now, say what you will that Ford might have taken one too many shots to the helmet, but he reigns supreme among Presidential athleticism. (You'll find the final Presidential Power Rankings at the end of the rundown.)

Here's a chronological rundown of the athletic bonafides of the U.S. Presidents of the 20th Century, with an emphasis on actual lifetime athletic accomplishment (and, in the absence of that, significant off-field links to sports as a proxy for participation).

George W. Bush: Well, he OWNED a sports team (Texas Rangers), but the closest he got to participating in sports was as a cheerleader.

Bill Clinton: Huge sports FAN (particularly Arkansas basketball) and an avid jogger and golfer, but essentially a non-athlete and classic "wannabe" jock. (And, uh, there's nothing wrong with that...)

George H. W. Bush: Played first base for Yale baseball, which puts him near the top of a thin field. Certainly qualifies him for Top 5.

Ronald Reagan: Sports claim to fame is that he was a Cubs play-by-play broadcaster, but more concerned with acting than athletics. Famously played George "The Gipper" Gipp in the movie, "Knute Rockne, All American."

Jimmy Carter: Star local basketball and football player in high school, but his most notorious sports claim to fame is that he was in office when the US boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Gerald Ford: See above. The best athlete of any President in our nation's history. And, when we inevitably do the "20th Century World Leader Battle Royale of Athleticism," I'm quite sure Ford would finish in the Final Four, if not win outright.

Richard Nixon: Despite leaving the office in disgrace, he truly embodied the idea of "First Fan," even going so far as to design and call a Super Bowl play for George Allen's Redskins. Played college football for Whittier College, but never left the bench.

Lyndon Johnson: Let's just say that he would have won any locker-room, uh, contests. (Jeff Reed? Ha! Small-time, by comparison. Literally.) LBJ enjoyed hunting, fishing and riding.

John Kennedy: Provided one of his most iconic President-and-sports images, playing touch football with his family on the Vineyard. Balky back, though, and general health problems. In the Clinton mold of "Big fan, not much of an actual player."

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Played football for West Point, once participating in a gang-tackle of Jim Thorpe. A knee injury ruined his football future, but he later became an insanely passionate golfer.

Harry Truman: Not much there.

Franklin Roosevelt: Do you have to ask?

Herbert Hoover: Was the student manager of the football and baseball teams as a college student at Stanford (he was part of the first Big Game versus Cal). Points for enthusiasm.

Calvin Coolidge: Doesn't seem to be much there for "Silent Cal."

Warren Harding: At this point in US history, most people who were young adults in Harding's era (1880s) didn't spend much time playing sports. But he did supposedly play a lot of poker.

Woodrow Wilson: Enjoyed bicycling and became an avid golfer while in office (as many future presidents would).

William Taft: Wasn't he kind of a fattie? He was, however, the first President to throw out a baseball at a game.

Theodore Roosevelt: What a bad-ass. He was the runner-up boxing champion as a college student at Harvard. He was a legendary big-game hunter. If he was alive today, he'd probably be a NASCAR champ. That was one tough SOB.

(I'm making the presumption that Presidents before the 20th Century weren't as exposed to sport as young men as the ones who followed them. Feel free to correct me in the comments.)

The first (and final) 20th Century Presidential Athleticism Power Rankings:

1. Gerald Ford
2. Theodore Roosevelt
3. Dwight D. Eisenhower
4. George H.W. Bush
5. Herbert Hoover
6. George W. Bush
7. Richard Nixon
8. Jimmy Carter
9. John Kennedy
10. Bill Clinton
11. Ronald Reagan
12. Woodrow Wilson
13. Lyndon Johnson
14. William Taft
15. Harry Truman
16. Warren Harding
17. Calvin Coolidge
18. Franklin Roosevelt

Other stories worth tracking today:

Bowls Tonight: Florida State vs. UCLA. Unless this is called the "Bobby Bowden Is Finally Retiring, Presented By AARP" Bowl, I really don't care. I picked FSU, like a moron. I'm rooting for UCLA, if only because they pulled off the biggest stunner win of the season, beating USC.

NBA: AI has a season-high 13 assists (plus 28 points) in a Nuggets win over Boston... Chris Paul hurt his ankle... the Wizards scored 41 points in the 1st quarter en route to beating the Grizz... T-Mac returned to the Rockets lineup; same result: Loss.

More NBA: Hot Trade Action! Is Ron-Ron Artest going to the Clippers for permanent trade-rumor fixture Corey Maggette? (My favorite Maggette detail: In the '99 NCAA title game, he was the only Duke player doing any damage -- or capable of doing any damage -- against UConn. Yet Coach K didn't like Maggette's early aggressiveness and benched him, likely costing Duke the title and affirming for me that Coach K can't... well... coach.)

NFL: Is it "win or else?" for Jim Mora Jr.? I'll contend that he's going to be axed regardless. Next time, Mr. Blank, bring in a coach who will build an offense around Michael Vick, not in spite of him.

Meanwhile, Michael Strahan is out for the rest of the year. Like that matters in the big picture for the Giants? And Bill Cowher will announce his plans next week. My bet is on retirement, temporarily. TV cred in '07 and a big raise with another team in '08 is his future.

Best NFL Rumor That Will Never Come True: Charlie Weis to coach the Giants? In a Big Blue wet dream, but that's as close as it's going to get. However, should Weis actually consider it? I say yes: The last two years at ND have proven that this is as good as it's going to get for him: A BCS-qualifying 9 or 10 wins a season, but getting beat by any/every top-tier team they play, with little or no chance at a national title unless they remove any/every top-tier team from their schedule. Meanwhile, doesn't he feel like he has something to prove at the NFL level?

MLB: Will Zito go to the Yankees or Mets? It all hinges on the Yankees trading Randy Johnson.

Gone Bowlin': Central Michigan gets its first-ever D1 bowl win (Motor City).

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tuesday 12/26 A.M. Quickie:
NFL P'offs: Jets, Jints On Inside Track?

NFL Playoff Clarity: A Sunday that seemed to have so many awesome NFL playoff possibilities yielded to the reality that it's not nearly as wide open – but nearly as compelling.

In the AFC, the Jets – yes, the Jets! – control their own destiny after beating the Dolphins in an ugly one last night. But now only a game versus the hapless Raiders stands between them and a Wild Card slot, and if the Jets lose that one, they don't DESERVE to make the playoffs. Eric Mangini locks in for NFL Coach of the Year.

(The other Wild Card slot in the AFC looks like it will go to the Broncos, who also control their own destiny.)

In the NFC, the Eagles secured a playoff spot yesterday with that thrashing of the Cowboys. (Jeff Garcia for NFC MVP???) That leaves one spot left, and, whee, it is guaranteed that a .500 team will get it.

(Even more amazing, the team with the inside track is the Giants, who have stumbled to the finish – understatement – but hold the tiebreaker over the other WC contenders: Packers, Panthers, Rams, Falcons.)

Wade leads Heat over Kobe/Lakers in NBA Xmas tradition: Any doubts that Dwyane Wade is the best player in the NBA? Maybe you think that Kobe is the best player? Well, Wade had 40 and 11 leading Miami to a 16-point rout. Kobe had 16 on 4/17 FG shooting. As '06 closes, so does the case.

MLB Hot Stove: Yankees trading Randy Johnson? Now THAT is a great development – totally unexpected, but totally viable. Will he go back to the D'backs? Or elsewhere in the NL West, like San Diego or San Francisco?

Meanwhile, the other implication is: If the Yankees can shed Johnson's $16M salary, does that make them instant players for Barry Zito? Suddenly, the Mets have gotten a little nervous – and, for Zito agent Scott Boras, no better Christmas gift could have been given.

Gone Bowlin': Motor City. Middle Tennessee State versus Central Michigan. Give me the MAC in this bowl every time. (Signed up for the Pick 'Em yet? Go to's college bowl pick 'em game and find group name "Daily Quickie Readers.")

College Hoops Polls: I'm trying to figure out how pollsters can rank No. 2 UNC over No. 3 Florida when they have a common opponent both teams played at home: Ohio State. UNC eked out a win (and that was with OSU playing without Greg Oden). Florida won by 26.

The Top 8 in both polls is the same: UCLA, UNC, Florida, Wisconsin, Duke, Ohio State, Arizona, Alabama. 2 Pac-10, 2 ACC, 2 SEC, 2 Big Ten. The highest Big 12 team is AP No. 9 Kansas and 11 Texas A&M; the Big East has AP No. 10 Pitt and 12 UConn. That's parity.

Tiger is AP Athlete of the Year: I guess I don't argue, but there isn't much more boring in sports than Tiger winning anything anymore, particularly end-of-year awards.

More intriguing was the rest of the ballot: LaDainian Tomlinson in 2nd (not a bad pick); Federer in 3rd; Wade in 4th; Pujols and Howard, appropriately, tied for 5th.

I'll ask this: Where the hell was Vince Young on that list!? He only carried his team to the Win of the Year in the Game of the Year with the Single-Game Performance of the Year, then turned around and – as a rookie NFL QB, the toughest position in sports – led the Titans to the precipice of the playoffs. He's the "Dan Shanoff Male Athlete of the Year*," for whatever THAT is worth...

-- D.S.

* - Not the same as my "Sports Person of the Year," which I didn't reveal last week but will get to this week...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

NFL Week 16 Live-Comment:
NFC: .500 Playoffs?! AFC: Titan-ic Potential!

OK, so this is how Week 16 appears to be shaping up, particularly how it affects Week 17, as I sit here pondering how the AFC Wild Card picture may have just been indelibly affected by a bungled would-be-game-tying extra-point by the Bengals:

The NFC playoff picture is wonderfully mediocre: It's a battle to see which .500 team will make the playoffs! (I love it: The inevitable result of the league's relentless pursuit of parity. Now watch the .500 playoff team win the freaking conference title.)

The AFC playoff picture is wonderfully competitive: Think about the teams that are involved -- Jets? Titans? Who would have predicted that back in August?

And it looks like next week's regular season finale is going to include a bunch of de facto playoff games for the Wild Card spots in both conferences, with 12 teams battling for 4 spots:

Looking ahead in the NFC: With at least 8 wins, the Eagles (controlling their own destiny) host the stumbling 7-8 Falcons. The other 7-8 contenders in action, in order of easiest-to-hardest match-ups: RAMS at Vikings, GIANTS at Redskins, PANTHERS at Saints, PACKERS at Bears.

Looking ahead in the AFC: The Jets have the inside track (especially if they can get win No. 9 on Monday night), playing Oakland. The Titans have it roughest, hosting the Pats. Intriguingly, the 8-7 Jags play the 8-7 Chiefs. Cincy hosts the looking-to-spoil Steelers. Denver (controlling their own destiny) hosts the 49ers.

Come on: Who doesn't love a complex "playoff scenario" breakdown?!

Earlier posts:

How can anyone NOT be rooting for the Titans and Vince Young to make the playoffs! What a story! 6 wins in a row and contention in the AFC!

And it appears the NFC has nearly mathematically assured that at least one playoff team will be no better than .500. If the Eagles beat the Giants tomorrow, it's a guarantee! Embrace mediocrity!

(The AFC Wild Cards, meanwhile, are totally up for grabs, making next week full of de facto playoff games and scoreboard-watching!)

Meanwhile: Texans shock Colts with Dayne Power! Chris Weinke: 4-7 32 yards FOR THE GAME... and he WON! Saints pummel the Giants! Ravens pummel the defending champs! Pats hold off the Jags to clinch the AFC East! Post your NFL analysis here!

Let me just jump in: What a Rookie of the Year race! All the top contenders took it up a notch today:

Maurice Jones-Drew? With today's 2 TDs, he's got 12, which on Monday will be Top 5 in TDs among all NFL RBs. And he's going to have nearly 900 yards rushing... on a team with another RB who has more than 1,100 yards. That's wild. If you factor in the expectations based on his draft status and backfield competition, he's been amazing.

Speaking of draft expectations, how about Marques Colston? He's got another TD today, and unlike MJ-D, Colston's team is a Super Bowl contender, certainly in large part thanks to the unexpected contributions of the rookie.

(Please stop pushing Reggie Bush as ROY. Even with today's 126 rushing yards and TD, he's not even the best rookie on his own team. The Saints ROY is Colston. If draft position and expectations actually did play into ROY voting, how could Colston be denied? A 7th-round pick from Hofstra? NO ONE saw his season coming. Continues to be one of the season's most amazing stories. Bush? Hell, wasn't this what everyone expected? His slow start puts him behind the others.)

Then there's Vince Young. QB is the hardest position for a rookie to step in and be effective in, but VY has made it look easy. Today's game was possibly his most complete yet: 2 TDs passing, 1 TD rushing. 13/20 for 183 yards, with 8 rushes at nearly 8 ypc. And, of course, managing a late drive leading to the winning FG, which is becoming a signature. Oh, and the Titans are suddenly an 8-7 playoff contender in the AFC, which is actually saying something huge. In the NFC right now, they'd be considered a Top 3 team. (Sort of makes you wonder if keeping VY on the bench to start the season enabled this late-season push... or cost the Titans early wins -- after that gruesome 0-5 start -- that will ultimately keep them out of the playoffs.)

Sunday 12/24 A.M. Quickie:
Christmas Eve Hangover

My favorite holiday tradition? 24 hours of "A Christmas Story," which has to be the cleverest piece of TV programming of the last decade. Some exec says: "I know! We'll run the same beloved movie over and over for 24 straight hours!" Genius. I can't wait until 8. I'm not a "movie quote" guy, but that's one movie where I make an exception.

Florida stomps Ohio State: See below. I'm still hung over from the endorphin release throughout the second half. If -- huge "if" -- the Ohio State freshmen take a lesson from the Florida guys and all come back next year, combined with the '07 recruiting class, they will destroy people. But what's the chance of that?

Knight wins 879: Next one leaves him all alone at the top of the all-time wins list. Will Coach K ever top him? Will, say, Billy Donovan? I don't think Coach K will last long enough, and I think Billy D is destined for the NBA. Meanwhile, Knight will be around for a few years, making it a moving target anyway.

Yao out 6 weeks (knee): This is a shame. He had emerged as the top center in the NBA, fulfilling all the hype and promise from his No. 1 draft status.

SoFla wins Bowl: In lieu of a trophy, do they get free pizzas for life? (By the way, chalk another data point up for why the Big East was better than people gave them credit for this year. This SoFla team did whup West Virginia, too.)

College Hoops Parity Watch: USC beats Wichita State. What happened to Wichy? Two games ago, they were this season's mid-major to beat. Since, they've been beat... twice... in a row. Yes, the Pac-10 is the best conference in college hoops this season. Hell, USC isn't even one of its power teams.

Chiefs stomp Raiders: I didn't have my weekly NFL picks by yesterday's game, but everyone knows I would have picked KC over hapless Oakland. What will they do with that No. 1 draft pick? Or will the Lions give them a run?

NFL Picks: I'm late, but not TOO late...

Vikings over Packers: Uh, wrong.
Chiefs over Raiders: Credited anyway.
Falcons over Panthers: Weinke?
Titans over Bills: VY for ROY!
Bucs over Browns: Rattaygious!
Bears over Lions: Oy. See above.
Rams over Redskins: Still under .500
Saints over Giants: Saints re-track.
Ravens over Steelers: Balto bye/HFA?
Pats over (my) Jags: Bad timing.
Colts over Texans: Indy bye/HFA?
Cards over 49ers: Looking to '07.
Bengals over Broncos: HUGH!
Chargers over Seahawks: LT-watching.
Cowboys over Eagles: TO payback.
Jets over Dolphins: Mangini for COY!

Once again everyone: Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Florida-Ohio State Hoops:
Holy Shit, What an Ass-Kicking

Wow, that was the best game I've ever seen this Florida team play -- and that includes last season's six-game NCAA Tournament run. They took on a terrific (if young) Ohio State team that was in everyone's Top 3 and simply obliterated them.

That's why I think Florida has just proven that, despite the two losses this season, they are the No. 1 team in the country right now.

Let's see: No. 1 UCLA? We already know how this Florida team matches up with that UCLA team. (See last year's title-game ass-kicking.)

How about No. 2 UNC? Interesting, but let's look at the only available and reasonable comp: Common opponent.

Both UNC and Florida played Ohio State at home. UNC escaped by single-digits and OSU was playing WITHOUT Greg Oden. Florida beat OSU, this time with Oden, by 26. And they held the Buckeyes to a season-low in points, by nearly a dozen.

Based on this performance today, if you had to put your bet right now on one team to win the national title, Florida has to be at the top of the list.

I can only hope that this is an omen for the college football national title game, rather than -- mixing my metaphysical metaphors -- using up all the good Florida-Ohio State karma.

ORIGINAL POST: Anyone else watching the Florida-Ohio State hoops game? I have been very impressed by OSU throughout the non-conference season (particularly in that loss at UNC). Oden is having trouble with the Gators post troika of Horford, Noah and Richard (but Oden won't see frontcourt depth/talent like that against any other team in the country).

Interestingly, it's Florida's guards (Green, Humphrey and Werner -- a 6-7 freshman who plays smaller than his size) who were the difference in the first half. I had figured that OSU's smaller players would handle them. (I really like that Daequan Cook, btw. By April, I think he'll be enough of an NBA first-round lock to be as outta there as Oden.)

Wow, watching this game, I am so ready for the CFB national title game...

Saturday 12/23 A.M. Quickie:
Arenas Eclipses the Answer

Be sure to check out my special Deadspin-exclusive "Night Before Christmas" parody poem below.

What could displace Allen Iverson's Denver debut out of the top story? Gilbert Arenas, who has emerged this season as a sensational, must-see scorer to rival Kobe Bryant.

Agent Zero had 54 in Phoenix*, leading the Wizards past the Suns and -- more notably -- snapping the Suns' 15-game winning streak. The Wiz have emerged as one of the hottest teams in the East (not hard), with Arenas making a case for Eastern Conference MVP (if such an award existed).

In a phenomenal sub-plot, Arenas exacted revenge on Mike D'Antoni, one of the USA Basketball coaches who cut him last summer. After the snub, Arenas vowed to rack up 100 points against D'Antoni and Nate McMillan, the other USA Oops assistant. He's more than halfway there.

Meanwhile, Iverson had 22 points and 10 assists in his Nuggets debut. Based on the "Arenas Standard," wake me when AI breaks 50.

Coming later today: I have to decide if I'm going to do my last live-blog of 2006 with the Florida-Ohio State hoops game. Stay tuned...

Other big stories this Saturday morning? Sixers snap losing streak. Knicks win THIRD straight (3-0 since Brawl). Wichita St loses first of season (CBB Parity Watch). Troy wins a bowl. Oh, and did you know those Duke LAX players didn't rape the stripper? (How far we've come since the day after the accusations.) Any more? Fill the Comments section.

-- D.S.

* - Thus ensuring that any thought I had to fending off the impulse to buy Gibert's new sneaker is finished. His scoring binge this week might have done more to increase his shoe sales than anything else.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Night Before Xmas":
Welcome, Deadspin Readers

If you're arriving here after seeing my "Night Before Christmas" tribute/parody poem on Deadspin, welcome (or welcome back, if you haven't visited lately). In addition to the poem, the major topic on the table today is Festivus-inspired grievances. Check back through the weekend for NFL and all next week for the daily usual. Take the week off? As they might say at Deadspin: "Hell 2 da naw." Happy holidays! -- D.S.

Festivus! Yes, It's Tomorrow, But...

For the rest of us! Quickie readers know that I'm a big believer/celebrant of Festivus. It falls on Dec. 23 (tomorrow), which unfortunately is a Saturday this year. As most of you won't be logging on tomorrow, it would be an empty holiday without the annual "Airing of Grievances." So use the Comments section to air yours, about anything in sports this year (or, better, right now) that aggrieves you. Now, where's my aluminum pole... -- D.S.

Friday 12/22 A.M. Quickie:
Ho, Ho, Ho. Happy Holidays!

If I deliver no other opinion or message today, it's this: I wish you and your families all the happiest of holidays, no matter how you will be celebrating. I squeaked out of Chicago last night to get back to New York – wow, was the airline system screwed yesterday.

Was it Brett Favre's final game at Lambeau? Real Packer fans – and everyone else – should hope so.

Packers 9, Vikings 7: My friends, we may just have had the least entertaining NFL game of the year. Good thing most people weren't able to watch. Or didn't want to watch.

More NFL: Art Shell out in Oakland? Reports are that he's gone after the season, though the team denies it. But why wouldn't they fire him? He's been awful. The team is atrocious. The performances are worse. I'm surprised he hasn't been fired YET.

College Hoops: Duke beats Gonzaga. I really thought that the Zags would win this game, given their talent and brutal non-conference schedule. Aw, crap: Now I have to give Duke credit and size them up as a Top 5 team.

CBB Parity Watch: No. 15 Oklahoma State beat No. 7 Pitt in double-OT, behind a career-high 30 from Mario Boggan. Right now, Boggan has got to be one of the Top 5 big men in college hoops. Off the top of my head: Oden, Horford/Noah, Hansbrough, McRoberts, Boggan?

Speaking of Oden and Horford/Noah, I'm already too ready for tomorrow's BCS title-game between Ohio State and defending champ Florida in Gainesville. Horford won't be playing, denying fans the best matchup of big men of the college season. Oden-Noah just isn't the same, though it will still be a battle between two Top 5 NBA picks. Oh, and I'm predicting that Ohio State will win the game, prompting speculation of Ohio State Final Four certainty, not to mention arguments of whether this is the best group of freshmen since the Fab Five (they are). Of course, a loss at home on Saturday night will only make the Gators' football win over the Buckeyes in Glendale so much sweeter.

NBA: You say "tip-in"; I say "tap-in." I guess I didn't make enough of a big deal about David Lee's tip-in with a tenth of a second left to lead the Knicks over the Bobcats. I watched the replay a lot yesterday, and I'm quite sure that even a tip-in can't be completed in a tenth of a second. Two-tenths? Maybe. I think there's a difference between a tip-in and a TAP-in. What Lee did was a TIP-in, and though the NBA was ready to credit him, I disagree. But, nonetheless, it was one hell of a play.

Pistons smack Cavs: I got back from my trip just in time to see the Cavs getting absolutely smoked by the Pistons. Anyone who picked the Cavs to have that breakthrough year where they win the East (or even make the East finals) was smoking crack. I believe I had them picked at the bottom of the East playoff ladder.

Here's the bigger point: The more LeBron realizes that he doesn't have championship pieces around him, the more likely he'll be to bolt when his contract gives him the option.

AI to debut tonight? A night I wish I had NBA League Pass (or might have to sneak away late to a sports bar): Allen Iverson's debut for the Nuggets. Are those jerseys on sale yet? Around Denver and the country, thousands of kids (and maybe a few adults) update their holiday wish lists.

MLB Hot Stove: Ah, D-Train... what did you do? Dontrelle Willis, who I argued in 2005 was the REAL "Face of Baseball" (not, as argued by others, Derek Jeter), was arrested for DUI. Come on, man...

Ripken as unanimous HOF pick? Hal Bodley has an interesting column in today's USA Today about how Cal Ripken should be a unanimous pick for the Hall of Fame, which would be a first. I've said this before:

Any voter who thinks Ripken is Hall-worthy (and who wouldn't?) but won't vote for him out of some ridiculous sense that no one should be unanimous should be permanently banned from Hall of Fame voting. Without overstatement, that is the equivalent of an athlete throwing a championship game.

BYU shellacks Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl: I completely effed up my College Bowl Pick 'Em strategy. I'm now 2-0 and I was MUCH surer of these first two games than the later, higher-profile ones, which I hubristically put all my "confidence" points on. Have to say: This BYU team was good enough to play in the BCS. If there was a 16-team playoff, they would have potentially made some noise as a double-digit seed. (There's still time to enter the College Bowl Pick 'Em! Go to's game and sign up under group name "Daily Quickie Readers.")

Pittsburgh Penguins to relocate: I'm going to throw out my standard concept – Las Vegas. Turn the team into a nightly tourist attraction, with no real local fan base but a rotating group of whoever happens to be in town looking for a fun way to spend a night out. The Pens will be the Celine Dion of hockey teams. And it would work.

More coming later, though I'm sure many of you are taking off early today and won't be checking the blog. I'll be posting and updating through the weekend and holiday, so feel free to check back. Otherwise, happy holidays!

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday 12/21 A.M. Quickie:
In Defense of Tanking a Season

Now that I finally have a handle on what day it is...

Sixers lose 12th straight: There's no question the Sixers should intentionally tank the rest of the season to position themselves to have the best chance to win Greg Oden in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The only debate is how open they should be about it. I'm sure David Stern would freak out, but if I was the team owners and management, I'd tell the fans exactly that. Fans would respect the team a hell of a lot more for it if they knew the losing was in service of something bigger.

I have this terrific ongoing debate with fans and readers over "To tank or not to tank" for draft position. I contend that as long as fans understand the tanking is in the service of something better, they'll not only understand, but applaud.

The classic case study is Cleveland Cavs fans. I don't hear many complaining that the team essentially tanked their season to ensure they drafted LeBron James. How many fans would trade a single 0-82 season for LeBron? I would imagine somewhere between many, most and all.

In this case, aside from the perennial lottery risk that even with the worst record, the Sixers won't get the first overall pick, the case for tanking (and being open about it) is "Oden-and-shut."

So what has more integrity: Admitting you're tanking to draft the best post player in a generation or losing but putting up a false front that you're actually trying, when everyone REALLY knows you would rather have the best post player in a generation. Tank away, Sixers.

There's only one problem with the plan...

Is Larry Brown coming back to the Sixers? The only thing that could truly derail a rebuilding project, hubbed around three 2007 first-round draft picks is to let Larry "Wrong Way" Brown be a part of the team, as advisor, coach, whatever. As we saw a year ago, he simply ruins young teams. If Sixers fans should have any outrage, it's that Brown is in the picture.

Knicks are 2-0 since the MSG Brawl: As long as they're winning, it's a lot harder to criticize the tactics, doesn't it? (And good for David Lee for having the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer. Despite being one of the most productive second-year players in the NBA, Isiah has kind of jerked him around with Jared Jeffries' return from injury.)

AI's debut in Denver was delayed by a snowstorm, but so was the Nuggets' game versus the Suns, which everyone wanted to see AI play in anyway. He'll make his debut tomorrow against the Kings.

(Meanwhile, reading about the juiced ticket sales in Denver with AI's arrival, I repeat: Iverson's powder-blue Nuggets jersey will be the NBA's top seller, despite a late start.)

Can you think of anything less sexy than a three-way between T.O., Deion Sanders and DeAngelo Hall? But that's exactly what they had, as Deion got Hall on the phone with T.O. to let Owens apologize for spitting in Hall's face. Hall accepted, and the trio all moved on to lovingly gaze at each other's reflections in the mirror.

I think Washington super-freshman big man Spencer Hawes just played himself into the NBA Draft Top 10. It was one of "those" kind of games, the reputation-makers:

Hawes absolutely dominated LSU's Glen "Big Baby" Davis in a Washington win over LSU. Hawes finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds on 10/16 FG shooting. Davis was held to 8 points on 3/11 FG shooting.

Put Hawes in the mix at the top of the 2007 draft class, right below consensus 1-2 picks Oden and Durant. I think by the time we get to next June, we'll be talking about Hawes in the Top 5.

MLB Hot Stove: Zitopalooza Update. Are the Mets serious about signing Jeff Suppan as insurance in case the Zito deal falls through, or simply using him as leverage to get Barry Zito to sign?

College Football Recruiting: Wild news. QB John Brantley, who won the Gatorade award for H.S. Football Player of the Year and is arguably the No. 1 QB in the Class of 2007, has reversed on his commitment to attend Texas in favor of his home-state Florida, a huge coup for the Gators and a devastating hit for the Longhorns (particularly given that this is the second time in three years this has happened to them). I, uh, sort of follow Florida football, so I'm happy, but a little wary: Given that freshman sensation Tim Tebow has three years left, why would Brantley want to sit behind Tebow for that long?

Is it Thursday yet? Ah! I'll take the Packers over the Vikings tonight, because, despite how shitty the Packers and Brett Favre are this season, I'm not sure Vikings rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson is ready to win in Green Bay at night in December yet. But I love that the Vikings are playing him, and I stick by yesterday's twice-affirmed argument that if I was the Packers GM and I was offered Jackson for Favre, straight up, I'd be effing insane not to do the deal. (Assuming away all the ugly baggage that comes with trading Favre and simply measuring their talents and remaining career upside against each other.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

But, Dan, It's Not Thursday...

Is it Thursday yet? Here's a scary indication of how much traveling I've been doing recently: I thought it was Thursday and, therefore, did a post about the Packers-Vikings game... that is happening TOMORROW (Thursday) night. So when you log on over the course of the day on Thursday, please refer to the post below for my comment about the game. Yes, I'm a little batty. No, that doesn't mean I wasn't totally serious when I said I'd trade Tarvaris Jackson for Brett Favre straight up without blinking if I was the Packers GM.

Thursday Night NFL: Vikings at Packers
(Plus: My Take on CFB Coach of the Year)

Be honest: If you were Packers GM and you were offered a trade of Tarvaris Jackson for Brett Favre, you'd be crazy not to do it. (And Packers fans would be crazy to gripe.) Pick: Vikings.

Can I just add an unrelated note about the AP voters picking Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe as Coach of the Year? This year was a brutal choice: Grobe or Rutgers' Greg Schiano. In any single year, Wake's BCS success or Rutgers' Cinderella ride alone would have been among the greatest coaching jobs in college football history, right up there with Gary Barnett at Northwestern in 1995, which, to me, is the gold standard for turnaround jobs. How to pick between them? Obviously, the AP voters put more weight in Grobe's ACC title than Rutgers' narrative/p.r. advantage. It's a cop-out, but I would have given it to both. I guess it works out sort of the same: Grobe wins the AP award; Schiano wins the Liberty Mutual (aka Made-for-TV) Coach of the Year award.

No Iverson in Denver vs. Suns? Boo!

A snowstorm will keep AI from making his Nuggets debut versus the Suns? Boo. (And PHX might win by 30.)

Questions to Ask Before Marriage? (Maybe This Is Why Brady and Moynihan Broke Up?)

From time to time, I think it's not a terrible idea to put some non-sports stuff here.

I saw something online that kind of intrigued me, and I figured some of you could either relate – or perhaps benefit for future use. The current "Most Emailed" content from the New York Times is a series of questions that "experts" "suggest" that "couples" "ask themselves" before they "consider marrying." Below I provide the questions, and for each, the safe, "right" answer and the dangerous, "honest" answer.

(Note: These are for entertainment purposes only. They aren't necessarily my actual answers to these questions. For example, the part about hating a spouse's friends or family. But perhaps some of you who are married or in a serious relationship can relate... or add your own.)

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

Right answer: Yes, whatever you want. As the mother of our child, I think it should be your preference.

Honest answer: Yes, me. Right up until you realize that, in fact, you'd rather be at home lounging on the couch than being at work.

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

Right answer: Of course I'll give up that daily Starbucks habit to sock a few extra bucks away for our retirement.

Honest answer: What the fuck do you mean I can't buy "us" the Nintendo Wii?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

Right answer: 50/50 sounds fair!

Honest answer: If I already know you're going to criticize how I use the Swiffer, why should I even bother?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

Right answer: We have no secrets.

Honest answer: Well, I AM a lunatic.

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

Right answer: Why of course "cuddling" counts as affection!

Honest answer: After the honeymoon, I will be able to count the sex on two hands, won't I? One hand, really.

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

Right answer: Not tonight? I understand.

Honest answer: So those cuffs are a no-go?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

Right answer: How else would we giggle over "Daily Show" together?

Honest answer: No TV in bedroom = Deal-breaker

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

Right answer: Anything is always up for discussion.

Honest answer: I don't want to hear it.

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

Right answer: Hebrew school? Sure!

Honest answer: Only if it doesn't conflict with his future stardom as: (a) NBA player, (b) hedge-fund manager or (c) TV star.

10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

Right answer: Of course I like your friends!

Honest answer: I hate your fucking friends.

11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

Right answer: Our parents are a cherished part of our relationship.

Honest answer: I hate your fucking parents.

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

Right answer: They don't visit enough!

Honest answer: Let me point you to my blog about it…

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

Right answer: I want you to maintain your own identity.

Honest answer: Porn.

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

Right answer: If it's something you really want, we'll make it work.

Honest answer: How much money are we talking about here?

15) Do each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

Right answer: I love you and we will work through anything we face together, as a team.

Honest answer: Eh, why not?

(Where this entire premise falls short for me is that so many of these questions relate to conditions that may happen when a couple simply moves in together -- co-habitation being the new marriage, of course. Also, let me re-emphasize: No TV in the bedroom? Who wants to live like that? And who wants to live with someone who wants to live like that? I, for one, know that my wife would have divorced ME if I had proposed something so insane.)

We now return to sports-related topics...

-- D.S.

Wednesday 12/20 A.M. Quickie: More on AI, NFL Pro Bowlers, "Gone Bowlin'" and More!

The top story of the day remains the Iverson trade to the Nuggets. The two biggest questions:

(1) Can AI find chemistry with Carmelo (or vice versa)? I'd ask different questions: What will AI's presence do for the development of rising Nuggets SG JR Smith? And will the absence of Andre Miller have an effect?

(2) Did the Sixers get a minimum of value in return? As I wrote last night, I like Miller, but the real value is those two first-round draft picks in the first draft in years (and last draft for years) where a picking in the 20s actually will mean something.

(Last question: What does that mean for AI's All-Star status? He was leading all East guards in fan voting. Do they simply translate his vote totals to the West? How is that fair to anyone? Do they let him play for the East in one last career hurrah?)

Oh WOW: If you read ONE THING about the Iverson trade all day, make it this roundtable of brilliant bloggers from AOL's NBA Fanhouse. Here's the link.

NFL Pro Bowlers named: For some reason, this just doesn't have the oomph of the MLB or NBA All-Star teams. (Maybe because the NFL Pro Bowl isn't nearly as compelling as the midseason showcase in the other leagues.)

I always look for a few things: (1) Which team had the most players? (Chargers with 9, and the Bears led the NFC with 7) (2) Who are the first-timers? (Most notable in '07: Frank Gore, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers) And (3) which rookies, if any, made it? (Devin Hester was a lock as a return guy, even if he's not for Rookie of the Year)

NBA: Suns win 15th straight, behind Amare's sick 28 and 10 (in 28 minutes!) They play the Nuggets next, in what could/should be AI's debut. Must-see! (Meanwhile: Kobe held to 19 in loss in Chicago.)

College Hoops Parity Watch: No. 23 Syracuse loses at home to Drexel. Meanwhile, No. 3 Ohio State pulled away late to beat Iowa State in their final tune-up before the huge BCS title game Saturday in Gainesville versus Florida. I just found out that Gators stud Al Horford won't be playing (ankle), not only seriously hurting the Gators' chances, but ruining what would have been an epic matchup in the paint with Greg Oden. Horford might be the most physically dominant post player in college hoops this season. Would have been fun to see what Oden could do against him.

College Bowling: Remember when Garrett Wolfe was the li'l running back from Northern Illinois that everyone loved to love? He led the nation in rushing but collected all of 28 yards in a 37-7 thumping from TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Don't know about you, but I'm 1-for-1 in this blog's College Bowl Pick 'Em Challenge. Have you signed up yet? Go to the ESPN College Bowl Pick 'Em and search for the group "Daily Quickie Readers." There's still time to get in. I just wish I had made last night's game my No. 1 most confident pick.

MLB: Zitopalooza! Eh, I'm bored with this. Mets? Rangers? Mariners suddenly? (Or are they Scott Boras' signature phantom suitor?) If Zito wants to play on a contender, he should go to the Mets. If he wants to have off-field marketing opportunities, he should go to the Mets. If he just wants the most money, he should go to Texas... but caveat emptor. Boras should have his client's best interests at heart, not just the highest dollar signs. I'll bet Zito has told Boras he wants to be in NY (for the reasons above), and at this point, Boras is trying to wring as many extra dollars from the Mets as possible before signing with them.

Michelle Wie to Stanford: Needless to say, I doubt she'll be living in the dorms. Good for her for at least dipping a toe in the college experience. It's not like she'll be playing for the golf team. (And if she did, I would hope she'd try to play for the men's team, because there's little question that she'd be the best men's player in college golf, as a 17-year-old female freshman.)

Sports Business Journal named ESPN honcho George Bodenheimer as its 2006 most influential person in sports business, which is a no-brainer. However: I have a surprise contender who doubles as my Sports Person of the Year who didn't even make SBJ's Top 50. (They'll be kicking themselves when they find out who I picked. The big reveal is coming later this week!)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yeah, I'm Late: AI Traded to Nuggets

Well, that's one way to make up for not having Carmelo Anthony's NBA-leading scoring average for the next 14 games: Trade for a 30-plus ppg scorer.

Did the Sixers get back 50 cents on the dollar for AI? Eh...maybe. I like Andre Miller, even though he's not particularly flashy. But at least he's a classic PG. Joe Smith? Not so much. The real wild card are those two first-round picks in 2007 in an insanely deep draft*; that's what a rebuilding team needs -- and, finally, the Sixers can claim to "officially" be in rebuilding mode.**

As for the Nuggets: Sure they get AI, but I'm not convinced that he'll coexist gracefully with Carmelo, who had just shown he was coming into his own as an elite scorer before the sucker punch last weekend. Two 30-ppg scorers on one team? Something's gotta give... or is that some ONE. And whoever that is won't be happy.

(Meanwhile, let me call it right now that the powder-blue Iverson Nuggets jersey will lead the NBA in sales for the rest of the season.)

Your comments/analysis on the trade?

* - 'bout Texas SF Kevin Durant, UNC PF Tyler Hansbrough and Alabama PG Ronald Steele as Sixers draftees?

** - That beats the nebulous twilight zone of "not-quite-contender, not-quite-Lottery" of the teams with the single aging superstars.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 12/19 A.M. Quickie:
Are the Colts Really Back?

Did you really think the Colts were finished for the season, putting the "AFterthought" in AFC? Last night's win over the Bengals should put them back near the top of most everyone's league rankings.

(And how many fantasy playoff games were won by the owner who came from behind with Peyton Manning's 4 TD passes? Or the owner who came from behind with Marvin Harrison's 3 TD catches?)

NBA: For Knicks and Nuggets, things are "fine." If suspending top players is wrong, who wants to be right? Short-handed, the Knicks beat the Jazz at the buzzer (to tie the Celtics, Raptors and Nets for the most wins, 10, in the Shitlantic Division). Meanwhile, the Nuggets -- without Carmelo Anthony or JR Smith – beat the previously sizzling Wizards in Denver.

College Hoops Parity Watch: Unbeaten Oklahoma State loses for first time this season to Tennessee. Meanwhile, my preseason Final Four pick of Wisconsin is suddenly hardly bold, given the Badgers' rise to No. 4 in the latest Top 25.

MLB Hot Stove: Credit the Tigers for locking up young starter Jeremy Bonderman (4Y, $38M). No need to troll the free agency depths looking for quality starters when they can re-sign the sick young bunch they already have.

Meanwhile, Pete Rose is going to get the star treatment from the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. At least it's A Hall of Fame, if not THE Hall of Fame. What does it say that it took the Reds HOF this long to honor him? (It says they obviously need an attendance spike.)

College Football Coaching Carousel: Stanford hires Jim Harbaugh, and B.C. has reportedly hired Packers O.C. Jeff Jagodzinski, who apparently finds coaching Brett Favre so monumentally unsatisfying that he'd rather coach college kids.

Sports Business: ESPN's new ownership stake in Arena Football League is the best thing to ever happen to the sport – and it's a smart play for ESPN.

The deal gives the network a way to expand its "Monday night" football (small "n") presence without "Monday Night Football" (big "N") by creating weekly Arena games on Monday between March 12 and June 25, satisfying the football fans' jones for the sport.

Arena was so excited by the distribution opportunity that it delayed the start of its season. Plus, the league can take advantage of all of the distribution channels of ESPN. Meanwhile, the deal helps ESPN find more programming it can own, as the major sports leagues take (back) more and more ownership of their products.

Fans and critics who don't understand Arena mock it a little bit for the funky look and pinball scoring, but it's one of the great sports-league success stories of the last 25 years. (Compare the AFL's growth to, say, the NHL.)

But for a league that is revolutionary as much for its fan-friendly marketing as its rulebook, it's the most significant step yet to come that much closer to its existing fans, and – most importantly – create new ones.

(And, yet, somehow I don't think that Tony Kornheiser will be in the booth calling the games...)

Oh, and DON'T FORGET TO SIGN UP for this blog's Bowl Pick 'Em contest. We're using the Bowl Pick 'Em interface. Groupname: Daily Quickie Readers. No password needed. You can enter whenever, but to get credit for tonight's bowl-season opener, be sure to get in now. Poinsettia Mania!

-- D.S.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NBA Dishes Suspensions for MSG Brawl:
Melo Gets 15 Games (Wow)

What did I say earlier: An over/under of 50 games total for suspensions handed out by the NBA for Saturday night's MSG brawl?

I was close: It was 47, including 15 for Carmelo "Stop Snitchin' Sucker Punchin'" Anthony, the 6th-longest suspension in NBA history. Nate Robinson and JR Smith got 10 games each. Mardy Collins, the original instigator, got 6. Jared "I Will Chase You Down!" Jeffries got 4. Jerome James and Nene got 1 each for leaving the bench.

For those counting at home, that means that there were several of the 10 players ejected from the game who weren't punished, which simply means they weren't trying hard enough.

(As for Isiah, there were fines levied on the organizations, but nothing specifically for the coach who may or may not have actually instructed Collins to lay a smackdown.)

Any reactions to the punishment? Specifically: How about that 15 for Melo?

PS: Good day for punishments! The NFL fined T.O. $35K for spitting in DeAngelo Hall's face. But the talking-point value is priceless, along with the emasculating effect on Hall's career.

Monday 12/18 A.M. Quickie:
LT's Awesomeness Eclipses NFC's Suckitude
(Plus: "Agent Zero" Becomes "Mr. Sixty")

LaDainian Tomlinson rules: Tomlinson seems to find ways to top himself with each new game, which is ridiculous, given the season that he's having.

The latest came last night in primetime on national TV, when LT (1) smashed the single-season scoring record (186 and counting) AND (2) broke off the longest TD run of his career (85 yards) AND (3) with 199 rushing yards for the game, he took over the NFL rushing lead from fantasy rival Larry Johnson (on the other sidelines, no less). Oh, and (4) he extended his single-season TD record by two to 31 TDs.

With two games still to play and the Chargers battling for full AFC HFA in the playoffs, Tomlinson can set an unbreakable TD record en route to arguably the greatest season any RB has ever had. The TD record will be the NFL's "56."

Meanwhile, the NFC sucks:

*It sucks that the team with HFA nearly lost in an epic way to a conference bottom-feeder.

*It sucks that the team with the best story in the NFL this season lost to a woeful non-playoff loser.

*It sucks that it looks like (at least) one of the NFC's playoff teams will have a .500 record.

*And it sucks that -- somehow, some way -- the Giants are still in the NFC playoff picture despite being worse over the last half-dozen games than any NFC team with more than 2 wins.

More NFL analysis in the post below or click here.

Will T.O. be punished for spitting in the face of DeAngelo Hall? Hall isn't exactly a sympathetic figure, but spit-in-face is one of the few remaining taboos in NFL (or sports) culture. More likely, it'll simply be more fodder for everyone who hates Owens.

NBA Brawlin': Speaking of punishment, who wants to guess how many combined games the 10 Knicks and Nuggets will get from the MSG Brawl? It's much more interesting than guessing the number that Carmelo Anthony alone will get. I'm setting an over-under at 50 combined games among the 10 players (...and maybe a coach?)

(Because the real intrigue is whether David Stern will punish Isiah Thomas for what sounded an awful lot like an admission that Mardy Collins' hard foul wasn't just intentional, but ordered by Thomas, who probably never expected it to become so brawlicious.)

More NBA: Gilbert Arenas is awesome. He's more than just my favorite NBA player; he's the new single-game scoring leader in the NBA this season, hanging 60 points on the Lakers last night – in Kobe's house, no less. It was a Wizards/Bullets franchise record, but Agent Zero also set an NBA record for points scored in OT (16). He's currently running 4th among East guards in All-Star voting. Will this make a difference? If nothing else, it should ensure his selection as a reserve. 60! Amazing...

MLB Hot Stove: Who had "two weeks" in the office pool question over when the first concerns about JD Drew's health status would pop up for Boston. And it sounds like his deal isn't completely finalized. I smell a reversal of fortune, literally and figuratively.

College Hoops: Late-entry freshman Bill Walker took his first steps toward being a Top 5 NBA pick in the 2007 draft, making his debut for Kansas State and scoring 15 in a 28-point thrashing. If you remember, Walker used up his high school eligibility and gained late admission into K-State; even playing for 2/3 of a season will make him eligible under the NBA's age rule, which I'd assume he will take full advantage of (except that Huggins has the No. 1 high school player coming in next season and K-State could have a rare shot to make the Final Four).

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

NFL Week 15 Reactions and Analysis:
Bears Indicative of Sorry-Ass NFC

Here are my usual shallow, superficial first-takes on the NFL results today, with the usual encouragement to put your own analysis into the Comments section.

Updated Monday A.M.: My biggest question this morning: How bad is the NFC that the Giants are still in the playoff hunt? WTF?! (Tomlinson adulation is post above.)

The Bears may have clinched full NFC HFA, but take note of the way they let the Bucs back into the game... in Chicago.

So: Which of you FFL GMs with a playoff game today was ballsy enough to start Tim Rattay? (Anyone? Anyone?)

Kyle Boller? Really: Kyle Boller?

It's officially time to start asking what solid playoff position the Titans would be right now if Vince Young had started the entire season?

(Oh, and the Rookie of the Year award is o-v-a-h. Yes, even though his stats today weren't particularly good. Or any good. But the guy keeps winning. Who had Tennessee at .500 after Week 15? Exactly.)

Just when the entire world was fully on the Saints bandwagon, they go and lose at home to a terrible Redskins team.

"Too Little, Too Late" Award: Steelers.

Hell hath no fury like the Pats after their worst offensive performance of the Belichick Era.

(And how ya like the taste of zilch, Miami?)

Wait: With the Jags' loss and the Jets' win, is New York going to ice out Jax for the playoffs? (Not with that head-to-head record.)

Favre passes Marino in something? Yawn.

OK, *now* do you buy that Jay Cutler is a better QB than Matt Leinart? He only proved it head-to-freaking-head. (Oh, I can already hear your qualifier that Cutler has a better team around him. I argue that if they switched places, Cutler would still outperform Leinart.)

Oakland is playing like a team that REALLY wants to get that No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick. Kudos on the motivation!

You know what? The NFC effing sucks. The only redeeming value is that the Wild Card spots should be up for grabs through Week 17 – and may include a team with the dreaded .500 record.

-- D.S.

Sunday 12/17 A.M. Quickie:
It's All About the Brawl at MSG

NBA action: It's Brawltastic! MSG last night. Knicks-Nuggets. End of the game. Flagrant foul. Scrum. (Sucker punch?) Brawl. 10 players ejected, including the NBA's leading scorer. A brawl that came WAY too close to the fans (a David Stern super no-no). And, in the middle of it all, the Knicks, who seem to find new ways to amp up the drama. Here's a link to Chris Sheridan's front-seat column, plus the all-important link to the video. (How quick to YouTube?)

Melo melee? There will almost certainly be tons of suspensions, and I seriously wonder if Stern, after reviewing the tape, will clock his league's leading scorer with a suspension that runs into the double-digits. When Melo apparently turned the corner on his "Stop Snitchin'" rep by giving millions to a local Baltimore youth center, he also apparently felt the need to reclaim his cred by "Start Punchin,'" a novel tactic.

Just as the memory of the "Malice at the Palace" has receded, we have this. Your reactions?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NFL Week 15 Preview and Picks

Cowboys over Falcons: How badly is Mora Jr. booed at home?

Dolphins over Bills: Winner actually still has playoff hopes.

Bears over Bucs: Please.

Jags over Titans: Am I really picking against Vince Young?

Jets over Vikings: Did you really pick up Artose Pinner to win your FFL playoff game?

Pats over Texans: Pats angry. Pats smash.

Saints over Redskins: Story of the year in sports.

Steelers over Panthers: Wasn't this the preseason Super Bowl pick?

Ravens over Browns: Balto angling for HFA.

Broncos over Cards: Cutler schools Leinart.

Rams over Raiders: Only hapless Oakland can make Rams look good.

Eagles over Giants: Jeff Garcia. Yes: Jeff Garcia.

Chargers over Chiefs: Tomlinson topples Hornung.

Colts over Bengals: Indy's death exaggerated.

Comments: More of your last-minute picks and analysis?

-- D.S.

Saturday 12/16 A.M. Quickie: Who Is No Longer Pat Riley's Bitch?

In a classic example of one team being another team's bitch, the Wizards had lost to the Heat 16 straight times – home, away, playoffs, you name it – heading into last night's game. It took the absence of Shaq, Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams, but the Wizards finally did it. (And, as a Wiz fan, I have to say: F'ing finally.) Is Caron Butler the best player who will never be an All-Star? (30 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl in his best game of the year. Trade from Lakers for Kwame? Heist.)

. 53. 'Nuff said.

How did the Suns and Warriors combine for only 206 points? And how much money was lost on folks who bet that "over?"

If money makes the man, Vernon Wells became one of MLB's biggest Men with that 7Y/$126M deal extension.

(Again: Kudos to the Jays for doing what it takes, financially, to stay competitive in the East.)

Jeff Bagwell retires: Hall of Fame lock? Well, does it help that he's the best hitter in Astros history? How about that he was involved in arguably the most lopsided MLB trade of the ESPN Era: Swapped from the Red Sox to the Astros for Larry Andersen in 1990. Yikes.

Disgraced "World's Fastest Man" Justin Gatlin worked out for the Cardinals, his second NFL team he has worked out for. Takers?

Appalachian State wins back-to-back 1-AA football title: I'd be curious how many 1-A teams that Appy State could beat?

Buckeyes stars turning pro early? I know I'm pro-Florida (and, therefore, anti-Ohio St), but where are the Buckeyes' star junior players' heads at if they're more concerned with testing the NFL draft waters than prepping for the BCS title game? (Ginn, Gonzalez, Pittman and Barton all filed the pre-draft paperwork to see where they stand. I'll tell you where they stand: Freaking first day. Think they won't want to showcase their NFL talents in college football's biggest game? Speaking of Ginn, think NFL scouts aren't watching Devin Hester and salivating: "Uh, Ginn is a BETTER version of Hester."

Is Baby Daddy a Dukie? Everyone agrees that the Duke accusers's baby's daddy ain't a Dukie, but wouldn't it be a Hollywood twist if one was?

-- D.S.