Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday A.M. Quckie:
*What* Kenny Rogers Scandal?

The Kenny Rogers "Sc-hand-al" is a distant memory this morning. What changed? Two signature pitching performances in Game 3:

(1) Chris Carpenter: He looked like the reigning Cy Young winner, giving up only 3 H (and 0 ER) in 8 IP. Things could fall apart for the Cards over the next three games and they would STILL know he'd be available for Game 7.

(2) Joel Zumaya: He went from ALDS sensation to World Series goat. His godawful 7th inning, giving up 2 walks, both of whom scored when he botched a sure double-play by firing an error past Inge, extended the Tigers' hole from 2-0 to 4-0.

All of a sudden, the Tigers are in an unfamiliar position: Down 2-1 heading into tonight's Game 4 (Suppan vs. Bonderman), doubling their loss total over their entire AL playoff run.

Obviously, the Tigers have proven they can rip off multiple wins in a row, but a loss tonight puts them in a do-or-die situation for the remaining three games. That's a lot of pressure for a team this moody.

The only way to turn this series around is to hit the NLCS Game 7 hero -- hard. (Have you seen that Missouri attack ad against stem-cell research? Will has it here. Suppan needs to stick to pitching and less to politicking. Same goes for Kurt Warner and Mike Sweeney and Ray Romano's TV wife.)

New MLB Labor Deal: Baseball popularity might only be 33 percent with Americans, but the foundation for ANY sport's popularity is actually presenting a product, which is why the extension of labor peace is arguably the most important (if unsexy) news in any sport's calendar – particularly baseball.

Big Ben questionable for Sunday: Really, if he can't play, he can't play. It's not like the Steelers have a padded lead surging toward the playoffs, so his presence would help – especially considering his past two games – but you can argue that a full-strength Charlie Batch is better than a dazed and confused Big Ben, at risk for even MORE damage.

The NFL's first "flex" game, moved from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night, will be the Bears and Giants – a no-brainer, but also the game that NFL execs had scheduled in the primetime spot anyway. Still waiting for real intrigue.

Speaking of NFL scheduling, the league approved a plan to play up to 2 regular season games outside of the U.S.

My original thought was that no team would want to risk pissing off its fans by eliminating 1/8 of the home games.

The NFL seems to want to allay concerns: Teams that relocate a home game will get a home game the week before and a bye week the week after; get a guaranteed fee the size of an average home game's revenue; and won't have to play a division game abroad unless both teams agree.

The globalization of the NFL is an inevitability; fans might as well embrace it. (Most fans of a given team don't go to the games anyway, and imagine the expanded fan base when a foreign city adopts the team.)

UPDATE (11 a.m.): There's a great seed of a thread in the Comments section that I want to encourage you to build on: Match up the international location with the most appropriate NFL team. Someone already pointed out playing a Bills game in Toronto. Add to it!

Feel proud, sports fans: You've finally helped to displace the 1993 NAFTA debate between Gore and Perot as the most-watched cable-TV show of all time.

The new champ? Monday Night Football's Cowboys-Giants game, which earned an 11.8 rating, smashing the old record (11.2). ESPN has had unbelievable fortune with match-ups so far, but I have to believe that the full-court-press approach to promotion helps.

I've always considered college football "strength coaches" to be a little on the sketchy side as it is -- do they get their degrees in phys ed or pharmacology? – and the news about the LSU assistant strength coach being busted for routing players toward an agent provides real fodder, rather than just my speculation.

"Deputy Shaq" could end up on a bloopers episode of "Cops": He was reportedly involved in a bungled child-porn bust. Hope he wants to keep his day job.

Sonics sale approved to Oklahoma businessman and his investors. He continues to protest – a little TOO much – that he wants to keep the team in Seattle. Yeah, right. As soon as the Hornets return to New Orleans full-time, it's "OKC Sonics."

(Speaking of the Sonics, they named Robert Swift their opening-night center. Add him to the absurdly long list of players who made a successful jump straight from high school to the pros.)

Don't hold your breath for football's return to L.A.: A new stadium will cost up to $1 billion – and that will apparently be all on the ownership group to finance.

It's gotta be the shoes? Stephon Marbury sat out of last night's Knicks game (another win!) with heel inflammation. Could it be because of his $15 shoes? (Nah: Other players in more expensive kicks hurt their feet.)

No "Cocktail Party?" SEC execs can pressure TV partners to not call the Florida-Georgia game "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," but don't expect fans to follow; it's only the greatest nickname for an annual sports event.

Finally, I would point all of you to this as a must-must-read. (Yes, precisely because it pivots off of one of my favorite old Quickie columns.)

-- D.S.


TBender said...

8 innings, 82 pitches.
Thank you Detroit.

Worldwide Reader said...

ESPN has had unbelievable fortune with match-ups so far, but I have to believe that the full-court-press approach to promotion helps.

No, Dan, it doesn't help at all. The full-court "synergy" is unbearable to watch. Hank Williams in the booth during the game? The Emmitt Smith (of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, if you didn't already know) interview that went on for 10 minutes ... during the game?

ESPN insults "true" football fans by assuming that the game itself is not enough to keep us tuned in. That they have to overwhelm us with this glitz & glamour approach in order to keep us interested in their "product."

Just show the goddamn game. Put Nessler in the booth with TK and Jaws and let them announce the action on the field. No sideline reporters. No interviews in the booth. No coaches interviews at halftime. No "speeches" given by the talking heads right before kickoff.

Please. Somebody make it stop.

Unknown said...

Dan..if things fall apart the next 3 games..there won't be a game 7.

Big Ben should sit. He's stubborn, and likely won't sit, but he should.

Unknown said...

Lloyd, if he's smart, will just suspend him for Northwestern. UM should have no problems beating NW with just Mike Hart.

Ben K. said...

Just to nitpick: Zumaya didn't throw the ball into the outfield. He threw the ball past Brandon Inge into foul territory. The ball bounced off the fence and ended up in the outfield.

Mega said...

If Bonderman pitches like he did verse the Yankees the Tigers will not lose.

Brian in Oxford said...

I hope Becky the intern can provide some amusing insights into Fehr's dealings the last week or so, that would be fun to read about. I'm stunned the luxury tax went up so high....of course 29 teams are going to vote to make it so that only the Yankees have to pay it!

If Canada got an NFL game, how would it reflect upon the CFL? Wouldn't the CFL be pissed about the NFL moving in on its territory? Could they try to get some sort of injunction against something like that?

Zumaya had a meltdown out there, but I think getting the lead runner at 3rd was the right idea. They wouldn't have turned three (and maybe not even two), but keeping the lead runner at 2nd seems a better idea.

I agree on the Sonics thing. As soon as I heard it was an "Okie" (oh sorry, I'm just remembering the Grapes of Wrath, that's not a good term, is it...) I said to myself, I know how that's going to end up!

I remember flying in for business to Jacksonville the weekend of the cocktail party. The woman I went with had her room overbooked, and she walked in on a bunch of delirious Bulldogs fans, flying a big red flag outside their room.

Mike and the Mad Dog had a good interview yesterday afternoon with Dick Ebersol of NBC....he let out that CBS has protected Indy at Dallas, as one of their 4 games NBC can't swipe.

Jake C said...

As much as I hate the Cardinals after beating my Mets...I actually wouldn't mind them winning it all. I want all of the year-long negative comments about how "bad" the National League was/is to be squashed.

If anything, I think that the amount of fight the Cards have put up (winning 2 already), even if they lose the rest, just proves the argument against the NL was totally incorrect. Ever think that maybe the NL was ALWAYS as talented, simply more balanced than the top end AL (reason behind the higher number of average records, but MANY teams grouped together).

WuzUpG said...

I can't believe you didn't mention Evgeni Malkin has scored 4 goals in his first 4 NHL games! This hasn't been done for 14 years. He'll be going for 5 straight on Saturday against the soft and disarrayed Philly Flyers.

Where's the love?

Malkin also moved to left wing onto Sid "The Kid" Crosby's top line.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

I don't think Canada will be as big of a focus in the NFL International branding. Canada already has TV deals in place with the NFL, and they are are for a pretty hefty price.

What the NFL wants is England/Germany/Mexico/China TV Networks shelling out millions because of increased demand of their product.

It will take years, and a lot of convincing, but it could happen.

Joe (Dayton)

Unknown said...

I don't really see the NFL latching on that well globally. In Europe, it only seems to work in Germany.
I think there's a better chance of the U.S. finally getting on the Soccer bandwagon...than the rest of the world getting on the Football bandwagon.

Myles! said...

Even if the Cards do win the WS, the NL is still an inferior league. Small sample size will have just produced an aberration.

Anonymous said...

But how does ESPN's ratings compare to network MNF ratings? mmm?

With football, I think it's a given they'll play in Latin America for one game and in Asia or Europe for the other. Canada is saturated to the point they have their own minor league (cfl). Buffalo should play an alternate game there sometime, but I don't see that happening as part of this.

Don't pick on Shaq for his policing efforts, because most police probably go through the same thing in obscurity. If he beats up a 5'1" guy, then you can pick on him!

As for hockey: Buffaslug POWER!!! How long can we go undefeated?

It almost washes that awful Bills vs. Patriots aftertaste away.

Kevin said...

If the NFL continues to fight for parity, the smallest advantages become magnified. A team with one fewer home game, even if it is a "neutral" game, can be at a big disadvantage for the season. Just think of what the home crowd means to a lot of teams. This doesn't take into account home-filed advantages gained late in the season by teams that play outdoors up North in winter, or Denver with their thin air, or teams whose homes are in domes and build their team to play well in a dome.

Another huge problem is time zones. If my team is playing in Japan, do I have to stay up until 3am to watch it live? I think the NFL should stick with preseason games if they are sending some to other countries.

Dan Shanoff said...

I love the idea of picking out which international cities might make the most sense for a given NFL team to play in. (ie, Bills in Toronto. Maybe Lions in Toronto?)

Anyway, let's stretch imaginations here to figure out the best fits of NFL team and international destination.

-- D.S.

Dan Shanoff said...

By the way, I'm not talking about Hank Williams in the booth. I'm talking about all the coverage of MNF that happens in the 24 hours leading up to the game -- not to mention that "Is It Monday Yet?" ad campaign.

But, again, we'll see how it goes when MNF runs into a less appealing matchup. But so far, the audience size has been remarkable.

Mr. Travel Reviewer said...

A few international thoughts...

The most obvious one is:
- The Vikings in Scandanavia

Some others musings:
- New England in Old England
- Seahawks in Vancouver
- 49ers in Tokyo
- Lions or Bengals in Johanesburg
- New Orleans in Paris

TJ said...

There is no god but football, and the frog is his prophet.

This ESPN overkill is slowly murdering me. Is it Monday yet? I fucking wish it were so I didn't have to sit through endless self-promotion and overhype. It's like the week before the Super Bowl--but every damn week.

Unknown said...

Full credit to Horatio right here...


17 games a season and 2 preseason with 1 game being neutral

think about it....if there were to be 16 games on neutral sites i'd say we'd have them in...

Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City, San Juan, Oklahoma City, LA, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Loisville, Las Vegas, Lincoln, Birmingham, and Boise (on the smurf turf)

that would be aewsome for everyone, especially the people who dont live near an nfl city

Unknown said...

and i just had an idea

i thought the neutral sites plan would make sched problems but i say they just ran the teams by last year record 1-32 and have 1 play 32 and 2 play 31 and so on

although you might have teams playing a division opponent for a third time....but hey a home 1 away 1 neural = more fair?

Worldwide Reader said...

Bashing ESPN has been pretty easy to do these days, and while I will no doubt subject myself to cries of, "Well, if you don't like ESPN ... then just don't watch it!" there is still a point to make.

There are things ESPN does that I appreciate - mainly, they pay for the rights to broadcast games. NBA, MLB, NFL, College football & basketball. They're all over the place. And I appreciate them for doing it.

But they just go so overboard about the whole thing. You can take many examples, but since Dan brought up MNF, it is topical for these purposes.

Football is my favorite sport and I will rarely miss a MNF game. I just wonder why ESPN can't deliver these games to us in a more understated format? Seriously. Why do we need to see "Pink" at the beginning of every broadcast? Why does TK have to act all serious, talking about Jerry Jones (or whoever it is) "selling his soul to the devil" in this big pre-game speech? It's a goddamn football game - that's it.

Why do we need two sideline reporters? Why do we need even one sideline reporter? Honestly, somebody answer that question for me. They are useless.

The worst are the in-game interviews and the crowd shots. Tom Cruise during that 'Skins game. Charles Barkley. Was Spike Lee on during the Saints game? Emmitt Smith. Hank Williams. And all of this is taking place ... during the game, while there is action on the field, while the Giants are driving down the field! And we have to listen to Emmitt go on and on about how hard it is to prepare for a dancing contest. Honestly, I don't get it.

Can someone please come to the defense of ESPN here? Dan? Someone make some sense of this to me.

(And don't tell me it boosts the ratings. My girlfriend isn't going to all of a sudden want to watch MNF because the idiot announcers are talking about Dancing with the Stars for 10 minutes).

marcomarco said...

The Bengals vs the Vikings in Amsterdam.

What would be the over/under on:
Pregame Altercations
Substance Abuse suspensions
Domestic Abuse suspensions

Sheldiz said...

i agree with the poster who said they should drop a pre-season game to add the international game.

i also think they should find a way to play the international games near large bases of U.S. Troops serving abroad... and allocate a certain number of tickets to the troops.

marcomarco said...

Also, i don't have a single gripe about ESPN's latest Power Rankings

Worldwide Reader said...

You think the Packers fans who waited 30 freakin' years to get season tickets want to watch them play in London?

You couldn't be more right. Playing NFL games in Europe? Seriously?

I can't think of a better way to destroy the leauge than to try to "globalize" it. The NBA is slowing going that route and ... well ... the NBA is just dreadful.

What helps make football so great is the crowds. Green Bay. New England. Pittsburgh.

Toronto? London? Paris? Ummm ....

If anything, the NFL need to make its league smaller. Two less teams, at least. Cut two preseason games, at least. Leave the playoffs alone. They are perfect (except for the stupid 2 week break before the SB).

TJ said...

The Neutral Field game is genius. I'm having flashes of pro games played in places like the Swamp, Neyland Stadium, Smurf Turf!

I am totally on board with this. How awesome would it be to have a Bucs-Jaguars game in the Swamp on some weekend when UF is off in Nashville beating up on Vandy?

Brian in Oxford said...

You know how ESPN does that ESPN360 thing for games, where you see one camera angle on the WWL, another one on the deuce, and Dick Vitale's bald head for 2 hours straight on ESPNU?

This would be an interesting way to show MNF. Have separate announcing teams do the game on ESPNs 1 and 2. In fact, have separate production crews. You might have one crew try to be all over the top, invite Oprah into the booth, six sideline reporters....The other crew, instead of playing "can you top this?" would instead understate its coverage....put good announcers (Jaws and Vermeil?) in the booth and let the game be the thing.

I'm too young to remember the separate broadcasts that NBC and CBS did for Super Bowl I. Is there anyone here old enough to differentiate the broadcasts? (Curt Gowdy versus Ray Scott, no?)

Ingrid and Jim said...

Saints in Rome!

Worldwide Reader said...

Dr. Z: "Am I anxious about the Vikes' appearance on ESPN's Monday-night show? You bet. Forget the game. I understand the special guest in the booth will be Rep. Mark Foley."

barry finkenberg said...

shoes do make the man.
dan, this goes back some, and the names can scare you, but...
when dave bliss (yikes) took over the head coaching job at new mexico, he brought along with him a contract with Pony sneakers. his star player was luc longley (egad) and luc developed achilles problems while wearing the pony's. luc went to wearing another brand and painting over the new logo.
even an amateur like myself can "feel" a bad pair of shoes.
i for one will keep watching stephon's shoe situation

rukrusher said...

The neutral schedule has to be intra-conference based on last years finish, i.e. first place NFC East place a first place team from the AFC Division they are not playing that year, this year would match up the Giants against either Patriots or Denver, it would be easy to schedule without conflict.

Regarding matchup's, looking at the fan base a Giant-Patriot game in Dublin seems a natural fit, between those two cities they have as many irish as Ireland. Plus the love of Rugby Union in Ireland would translate well to the NFL.

I also like Oakland v. Tampa in San Juan, good priate back drop,

San Francisco v. San Diego in Madrid,

Carolina v Jacksonville in Rio de Janiero, since Jaguars and Panthers are really names for the same South American big cat.

Travis said...

"The globalization of the NFL is an inevitability; fans might as well embrace it. (Most fans of a given team don't go to the games anyway, and imagine the expanded fan base when a foreign city adopts the team.)"

The reason behind that is because so many tickets are locked up with season ticket holders that average fans cant get ahold of tickets for games.

If the NFL wants to play overseas, fine but why waste anything more then a preseason game there. Someone said today, and it might have been on 1st and 10 on ESPN, that the fans overseas will turn out for games wether there preseason or not.