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
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
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
(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
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.)
(Yes, precisely because it pivots off of one of my favorite old Quickie columns.)