Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday: CFB Comment Tailgate!

Last Update (11:27 p.m.): Wow, that Gators win over the Vols was g-r-i-t-t-y. But huge, establishing UF as the team to beat in the SEC East and, of course, on "Shake-Out Saturday" (or whatever it's called) keeps them among the BCS title-game contenders... for one more week. That's more than can be said for Notre Dame and FSU.

The Top 10 this week is going to be VERY interesting. Or, at least, it SHOULD be. The media and coaches have a way of turning their polls into farces, even with the best material to work with. And so I leave the Comments section with this final question that we can talk about all day tomorrow:

What does YOUR Top 10 look like? Use the Comments section to have your say. Here's my first crack, but I reserve the right to change it, based on your input and opinions, before Monday morning:

1. Ohio St.
2. Auburn
3. West Virginia
4. USC
5. Michigan
6. Florida
7. Georgia
8. Texas
9. LSU
10. Louisville*

This is after 3 games, not forward-looking. Without Brohm, Louisville wouldn't make my Top 10, and I fully expect them to lose to WVA -- but what a testament to the strength of their offense that they can probably come out of '06 as a one-loss team even WITHOUT Brohm and Bush.

So if you ask me to project, I'd take out L'ville and I'd probably have Notre Dame as No. 10, begrudgingly. (But if I had any guts whatsoever, I'd say No. 10 should be Oregon's spot ahead of Notre Dame.)

Why not some of the other still-unbeaten teams? VA Tech has played absolutely no one. Iowa is still too iffy. TCU actually had a pretty awesome day, defensively, vs. Texas Tech. Arizona State? BC? Still too far away.

Great work today. Keep commenting on this through the night -- and all day tomorrow.

-- D.S.

Update (8:59 p.m.): For some really really good comedy, check out Deadspin's day-long "Hugh Johnson Project." (Though they don't seem to have gone past 5 p.m. -- we're still cooking over here!) And keep those comments coming. We've gone into triple-digits. This has been a great experiment today. Love your work today/tonight, everyone. I'm in awe. But not as in awe as I am of Tim Tebow.

Update (8:54 p.m.): Think the Reggie Bush thing has gotten into USC's head? What else could account for being down 3-0 at the end of the first quarter? Yikes, I'll say one thing: USC does NOT look like the No. 2 team in the country. Or No. 3. Or No. 4. Or No. 5.

Update (8:33 p.m.): In my house, the day doesn't really start until the Gators start playing. And that last TD drive was exactly what Florida needs to do more of: Use frosh backup QB Tim Tebow to freak out the D a little, then let senior starting QB Chris Leak use a roll-out to buy just enough time to hit a WR deep for a TD. I tackle my wife on the couch. Whee. OK, that's my last Gators-partisan update of the night. (Maybe.)

Update (7:57 p.m.): Comment Question! While we're waiting for the 8 p.m. games to kickoff and heat up, here's a question for the Comment page:

Where do you think Notre Dame will be ranked in the next poll? (What's their best-case scenario? What's their worst-case scenario? And, remember: That is the opposite of how the haters will see it. I think their best-case is 5th -- I'm retching -- and the worst-case -- realistically -- is 10th. And that's probably a stretch, unfortunately. They shouldn't be in the Top 10. Not after today. Your thoughts? Post in the Comments area on it.

Update (7:43 p.m.): Uh, one of the least-heralded of the ranked-vs-ranked games provided the best finish of the day. WHAT A FINISH!

Oregon with the TD drive (1)!
Oregon with the onside kick!
The refs blowing the replay call...horribly!
Oregon with the TD drive (2)!
The refs blowing ANOTHER replay call!
Oklahoma with the wild runback!
Set up for a game-winning FG!
Blocked! Blocked! Ducks win!

What a game! Not to be trite, but this is why we watch.

By the way, the biggest storyline of the game: How the replay system could have failed so horribly...not once but TWICE! I'm sorry: Can't they get the official in the replay booth a 60-inch HD TV for the clearest picture possible? But I don't have an HDTV and I still saw that onside kick was touched early by Oregon AND that the PI call was wrong, if the rule is "If the ball is touched first..." because the ball was clearly touched first. How did the replay official miss not just either, but BOTH?!?!

See my updated item below: Oklahoma should stay in the Top 20, because the refs probably robbed them of the game. But we rank by what HAPPENED, not what SHOULD have happened. Put the Ducks in (or very very near) the Top 10, too. Whew!!

Don't forget: Join in the Comment Tailgate! 60-plus comments already. As long as you're just sitting there watching football on TV, add your analysis and respond to others.

Update (6:50 p.m.): After the 3:30 round, some thoughts:

Louisville is a Top 10 team.
is a Top 10 team.
Notre Dame is not.
should be No. 2.
LSU still deserves to be a Top 10 team.
Oregon isn't a Top 10 team, but knocking on the door. (Yes, that used to say "Oklahoma." I jumped the gun, Dewey-defeats-Truman style. Oh did I! What a finish!)

Update (6:48 p.m.): Auburn wins! Amazingly dramatic final drive by LSU falls short! Horrible officiating call ruins LSU season (and saves Auburn season)! Wow...

We still have to see how USC does against Nebraska, but I'm ready to give Auburn the No. 2 ranking for surviving in this one, even though the refs tainted it.

Update (6:46 p.m.): No matter how this LSU-Auburn game ends, LSU is putting up a HELL of a final drive. Where's the Auburn D now?

Update (6:33 p.m.): LSU just got robbed when the ref called off that pass-interference call on 4th down. What a classic example of the limitations of the replay system. Someone needs to explain to me precisely WHY that can't be a reviewable play? Because it was a "judgment call" by the ref? SO WHAT?! Isn't that EXACTLY when a play should be review-eligible? Because if you watch the play, it is OBVIOUS that the LSU WR was interfered with BEFORE the Auburn DB touched the ball. It's even worse, because the ref changed the call from right to wrong. The original call was right; the second-guess was wrong. They just arguably cost LSU their shot at the national title; on Auburn's side, they have to be thinking that's one of those moments you look back on as a key "karma" moment in a title season.

Update (5:41 p.m.): Where was that QB work from Brady Quinn earlier in the game? Meanwhile, 7 points might be enough to win for Auburn. I suspect they'll need another FG to feel more secure. When was the last time that 10 points made a team feel good?

Update (5:10 p.m.): Maaaaaaannnniinnnngghaaaammm! (And I'm not even a Michigan fan.) Excuse my earlier over-enthusiasm.

Update (4:56 p.m.): If the No. 2 team gets stomped at home by the No. 11 team, that No. 2 team should be out of the Top 10 in the next poll. At least, if the voters know what the hell they're talking about.

Meanwhile, Auburn-LSU may be 0-0, but at least it's going to be close all the way down to the wire. Sure beats a 27-7 ass-kicking.

In the other "Showdown/Shakedown/Shake-Up/Whatever "S"-word-it-is Saturday" games, where's the offense between Miami and L'ville? And I'm rooting for Oregon to finally show everyone how overrated Oklahoma is.

Update (4:35 p.m.): 20-7 Michigan. I don't have to worry about partisan jinxes, and it's a fun thought exercise: How far does ND drop with a home loss to Michigan? (Still can't believe they were No. 2. Have to say: Told you so.) How much does Michigan jump with a win at ND?

If the poll was fair (and smart), a flip-flop isn't out of the question: Michigan into the Top 5; ND into the 10-15 range. But you just KNOW the voters would NEVER drop ND from 2 beyond, say, the 6-10 range.

(Yes, I know I'm jinxing the hell out of
Michigan right now.)

Update (3:49 p.m.): Brady Quinn intercepted for an INT-TD? Someone pinch me. Meanwhile, LSU-Auburn is a slugfest. Two awesome defenses. This could be a 9-6 field-position-rules game. Ugly, but in a beautiful way.

Update (2:56 p.m.): Ohio State has just blown it open. 34-7 makes the final score more than respectable for the poll voters among the media and coaches who simply vote off of final score, which I suspect an embarrassing percentage probably do. Despite a crappy first half, you can't hold it against them -- not when the final spread will be that wide. The Buckeyes' No. 1 slot is safe for another week.

(On the IA/IASt game, Mike Gottfried has just re-iterated that Florida State is his No. 2 team. That's not No. 2 in the ACC -- No. 2 in the country. He talks like Tom Carvel and apparently has dipped a little too heavily into the ice-cream cake on that one. It's going to be funny when FSU loses to Clemson in Tallahassee tonight. Doe s anyone get that Tom Carvel reference?)

Update (1:32 p.m.): The question that's going to keep me occupied until the 3:30 mayhem is whether I'd consider dropping Ohio St from the No. 1 spot if they continue to look so mediocre vs. Cincinnati. I don't care that OSU won at Texas last week; UT was obviously overrated at No. 2. Not convincingly beating Cincinnati would be as much of an indicator of Ohio State's quality as beating Texas (and that's not a good thing).

One problem: I'm not sure who I'd replace OSU at No. 1 with (how wonderful: "No. 1 by default"); to me, the only contender would be Auburn beating LSU (but they'd be doing it at home. Question: Is winning at home over LSU more impressive than beating Texas in Austin?)

I'm sure OSU will make this a moot argument by throttling Cincy in the 2nd half -- but it's a terrific academic argument: Should a team -- particularly a No. 1-ranked team -- be punished for not winning impressively ENOUGH?

(At the very least, it should be factored in. But I get the sense from the media and coaches' poll that the ruling philosophy is "Inertia Rules." All a team seems to have to do to maintain their poll standing is to win. Sometimes, they don't even need to play at all -- see USC's ludicrous jump from 3 to 2 in the coaches' poll last week.)

ORIGINAL POST: I'm busy getting ready for the wild ride of college football that starts around 3:30 and runs until midnight. (Why are there never any great games between noon and 3:30?) Anyway, here we go:

The Comments area is open for your pre-game analysis, mid-game analysis, post-game analysis, What-It-All-Means analysis, Heisman analysis, Top 25 analysis and anything else you want to discuss. I'll be tracking and jumping in when I'm inspired by either something I see on TV or something commented.

-- D.S.

Update: I didn't even do a post for today's biggest headlines. Let's see: Reggie Bush denies the Yahoo story (shocker!)... Papelbon is done for the season AND done as a closer (a switch which should have been done earlier this season)... and there's a must-read in today's WashPost that foreshadows the new NBA/NCAA/ShoeCo attempt to undercut the evil elements of prep/amateur hoops. I have a LOT to say about this, but it'll probably have to wait until next week. I re-submit yesterday's analysis: Who would have thought that back-to-back double-headers between the Yankees and Red Sox would be such a non-event? OK, back to burying myself in CFB. -- D.S.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Enjoy Your Weekend!

Huge thanks for everyone for your attention and enthusiasm this week. Let's review my Top 10 favorite sports newsmakers of the week:

10. John Hodgman: Intellivision Guru
9. "MNF": ESPN's biggest hit ever
8. Papi vs. DJ: How about "Neither for MVP"
7. "Are you retarded?": TJ calls out Irvin
6. Atlanta Braves: Best streak ever...over?
5. Rich Rodriguez: Coach of the Year at WVA?
4. Francisco Liriano: The agony of the arm
3. Bill Simmons: Does the dance with Colbert
2. Emmitt Smith: Dancing with the HOF'er
1. Reggie Bush: Heisman His Heisman

Comments: What was YOUR most significant story of the week (and why)?

Enjoy your weekend, and don't forget: We'll be doing live-blogging live-commenting on both Saturday (CFB) and Sunday (NFL), so feel free to drop by, see what fans are saying and chime in yourself.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 2 Preview: Picks, Etc.

Earlier today:
*CFB Picks!
*Simmons vs. Colbert!
*Yahoo vs. Reggie Bush!
*Friday Wrap!

NFL WEEK 2! Let's just get right to it, coming off of last week's "what-curse?" start (jinx alert!):

Falcons over Bucs: It's only Week 2 and we're already talking about Cadillac Williams being hurt?

Bears over Lions: It's not just Chicago's home opener; anyone want to bet against a second straight shutout?

Bengals over Browns: As it turns out, you picked the wrong "Johnson" with that Top 3 fantasy draft pick. Shoulda gone with Rudi, yo.

Saints over Packers: Because it can't get much worse for Green Bay than a second straight loss at home... to a team that barely has one.

Colts over Texans: Peyton is back on the dome turf, and not even Samkon Gado will be able to stop him.

Dolphins over Bills: Just don't expect Nick Saban to fuck up the replay-flag toss again this week.

Vikings over Panthers: And Minnesota continues to play out the early-season storyline of the year -- the "righting of the ship."

Eagles over Giants: I'm betting Donovan McNabb watched all that fawning coverage of Eli Manning last week and said, "We'll see, bitches..."

Ravens over Raiders: Can it get more "embarrassing" for Oakland than Monday night's shutout? Why yes it can!

49ers over Rams: Last week was no fluke – the Niners are improved; meanwhile, will the Rams get scoring from anyone but the kicker?

Cards over Seahawks: Deion Branch is instantly Seattle's best WR; he wouldn't be the SECOND-best WR for Arizona. Fast track favors Cards.

Broncos over Chiefs: How good would Jay Cutler look in a Chiefs uniform right now? Damon Huard + Herm Edwards' weak offense = Another KC loss.

Pats over Jets: "Master vs. Protege" is a better storyline than "Manning vs. Manning." Think the Genius taught his ward ALL his tricks?

Chargers over Titans: Maybe after Tennessee falls to 0-2, they'll start Vince Young. Of course, Rivers is the new poster boy for patience.

Redskins over Cowboys: And when it's over, there will be a full-on QB contro in Big D, led by T.O., who can't resist the primetime platform.

Jags over Steelers: On Monday night, Big Ben is KO'ed by the nasty Jags D and Leftwich wins over more fans leading JAX to a h-u-g-e win.

(Season: 12-4)

Comments Question: What's the most intriguing NFL storyline of the week (and why)?

-- D.S.

Update (2:23 p.m.): Check back on Sunday for an all-day Comment tailgate on all things NFL. I'll set up a post before the games start, then leave the comments open all day for you to have your say about the games. You can talk before, during, after, whatever. It'll be a big experiment. (And I'm doing the same thing for CFB tomorrow, as long as you're just sitting in front of the TV doing nothing but watch games.)

CFB Set-Up: Shakedown Saturday

Be sure to check out (and comment on) the rest of today's coverage:
*Simmons vs. Colbert!
*Yahoo vs. Reggie Bush!
*Friday A.M. Quickie!

Now, on to Saturday's CFB mayhem:

Seven games between teams in the Top 25 is a rarity (one other time since the AP poll started in '89), but there's only one that is a true "knock-out" game, regardless of who wins:

LSU at Auburn. It's a de facto SEC West title game. It's a de facto SEC title game. And, if you get down to it, it's a de facto BCS title-game play-in. Not quite Ohio State vs. Texas, but close:

The Auburn-LSU winner has the inside track on the second-best unbeaten season in the country -- and that second spot in the BCS title game:

It's very simple: If the SEC champ goes unbeaten, there isn't another unbeaten team in the country (except Ohio St) that can stake as strong of a claim to one of the two title-game spots.

(Put it this way: The loser is definitely on the outside looking in. The winner gets my No. 2 poll ranking, no questions asked. However, that winner still has a hellish remaining schedule. But as long as they keep winning, they get the inside track that Ohio State is on. In the parlance of the TV folks: The LSU-Auburn winner controls their own destiny.)

So the pick? Tigers. Ha ha, just kidding: I'm taking Auburn with the home-field advantage, winning in the type of defensive slugfest that has typified the SEC over the last 12 months.

As for the rest? Well, if Michigan or Nebraska or Tennessee or Miami or Oklahoma/Oregon lose, it's not like anyone gave them a shot at the BCS title game anyway. All were ultimately going to lose later this season even if they pulled upsets tomorrow.

HOWEVER, if any pull an upset (Mich over Notre Dame, Nebraska over USC, Tennessee over Florida or Miami over Louisville), now THAT would seriously crimp the BCS hopes for the losing team. I just don't see any of those four upsets happening:

Notre Dame over Michigan: Charlie Weis owns Lloyd Carr. (He won't own Rich Rodriguez, when Double-R is coaching Big Blue next year.)

Florida over Tennessee: It's the beginning of the end for Phil Fulmer, as Vols fans get an up-close look at the Gators' sick team speed.

USC over Nebraska: The Huskers might be trying to do their best impression of a West Coast Offense. Here's the real thing.

Louisville over Miami: Wow, Miami dropping to 1-2 after 3 games? Louisville's offense will show Miami what they're missing.

I like The M Zone's coverage. Very clever to compare the 7 games to the 7 deadly sins. I like that a lot.

The rest of the Top 25:

(1) Ohio St over Cincy (Beatdown)
(8) Texas over Rice (Yikes)
Clemson over (9) FSU (UPSET SPECIAL!)
(10) Georgia over UAB (Stafford Era!)
(14) VA Tech over Duke (Double-Yikes)
(16) Iowa over Iowa St. (Trap?)
(18) Oregon over (14) Oklahoma (OU's luck runs out)
(21) Cal over Portland St. (Finally, schedule relief for Bears)
(22) Arizona St over Colorado (0-3 for Hawkins' Buffs?)
(24) Texas Tech over (20) TCU (Best game of the day?)
(23) BC over BYU (Eagles ride last week's mo)
(25) Penn St over Youngstown St (PSU takes out ND frustration)

Update! (2:21 p.m.): We will absolutely be talking college football all day tomorrow (Saturday) right here. I'm going to put up a post to talk about all the games, and then we can use the Comments section as a sort of running, live-bloggish, real-time, post-when-ya-wanna, check-back-frequently, keep-it-open-next-to-the-TV, "Quickie-Surround" (LOL) type experience. So check back tomorrow!

-- D.S.

Bill Simmons vs. Stephen Colbert

Last night, my former colleague – and the Web's most popular sportswriter -- Bill Simmons was on "The Colbert Report" to support the paperback release of his book "Now I Can Die In Peace."

In the most appropriate homage to Bill, I set up for a running diary, which the rest of the world calls "live-blogging."
And away we go:

11:51: Colbert introduces the segment. (SC: "I wonder what we'll talk about?") Bill gives a wave to the crowd as Colbert does his "it's-all-about-me" schtick. (Hmm: Who is the audience cheering for again? Keep that in mind.)

11:51:07: Bill reaction shot to Colbert's antics. Slightly deer-in-headlights, but that's understandable. Bill is wearing a pinstripe suit and open-collar white shirt. (I'm disappointed: Where's the Jalen Rose NBA Draft outfit?)

11:51:20: SG slyly references an earlier joke in the show about Hungarians. (Points to SG: You're paying attention! I always like when the Colbert or Stewart interview guests do that.)

11:51:56: Colbert talks about Bill's "fan's perspective"...yada yada yada... one-word responses from Bill. I guess Colbert didn't take the John Sawatsky ESPN interview training. (One-word answers are interview death on Colbert/Stewart. When you can hear individual audience member chuckles, it's quiet. Too quiet. But it's early yet.)

I believe the upshot of the question from Colbert was that Bill stays out of locker rooms for athlete interviews because there isn't enough room in, say, the Giants locker room for both Barry Bonds' head and Bill's head. (Wait: Did I mis-interpret that? Ha ha: Bill, we kid 'cause we love!)

11:52:09: Colbert reads the entire title of Bill's book, and comments about the title "It's a good one."

Bill quietly comments on "But now there's no 'Peace'" with Red Sox fans. "It's terrible." More projection! We can't hear you in back!

11:52:20: Pause the DVR for a sidebar with myself:

This is where I have my first "I-wonder-what-SportsGuy-readers-seeing-Bill-in-person-for-the-first-time-are-thinking" moment.

(Full disclosure: I've met Bill once in person, very briefly, and I really liked him. We have an occasional email correspondence, and he's been nothing but nice to me.)

He's an unbelievable writer – and has created a very impressive little empire. (OK, I'll stop the SG-slurp now.) But the fact is, he's not nearly as good on TV as he is in print. Not even close. That's not a criticism -- just an observation.

(The reality is that if Bill was as good on TV as he was in print, he'd be so big as to eclipse everything else on sports TV. He'd have a show more popular than PTI and I have no doubt he'd be sitting in Tony Kornheiser's seat on Monday Night Football. As Simmons himself might say: I will not argue about this.)

So anyway, having heard him on the radio a few times (and having seen him on TV once or twice on that ill-fated train-wreck "Cold Pizza" segment of him and his LA buddies sitting at a diner table talking), I knew he wasn't as good on broadcast media as he was in online media.

I'm always curious, then, how fans who only know him by his brilliant online-writing skills react when they see the actual guy behind the Guy. So far, the interview is a slow start. But the Colbert interview segment is always more about host than guest. You've got to be willing to let Colbert carry the thing.

Un-pause the DVR and continue...

11:52:45: OK, NOW Bill is warming up. Colbert threw him a softball, asking what makes the Red Sox so likeable. Bill got as animated as we're likely to see him -- it's in his wheelhouse.

(Number of pop culture references so far? Zero. That's a disappointment.)

11:53:40. Colbert flashes his genius. He points out that "Path to 9/11" (on ABC) was trounced by football on both Sunday and Monday nights.

Colbert: "Does that mean that America cares more about who covers the spread than who was responsible for 9/11?"

(This is PRECISELY the kind of pop-culture-meets-sports reference you'd expect out of Bill -- but maybe only online, not on TV. We're in Colbert's World now.)

11:53:58. Bill stumbles through a reply, but then has an outstanding save by setting up Colbert with this: "You know, the highlight of Bush's presidency was sports-related?"

Colbert: "He caught that fish!" (LOL. Colbert runs with it. Audience eats it up. Again, people watch the interview for Colbert, not the fill-in-blank guest.)

Bill references Game 3 of the 2001 World Series when Bush threw out the first pitch in a bulletproof vest, marveling at his strike:

"Would Reagan have been able to do that?" (Clever.) "Would Franklin Roosevelt?" (OK, that's hysterical.) "Would Bill Clinton, who probably throws like a girl?" (Eh, wrong audience, methinks.)

Simmons: "His presidency peaked that day." OK, that's low-hanging-fruit clever. But now, step aside for the master:

Colbert: "You know what? I think he's been throwing a fastball past us every day since then." (Audience goes nuts.)

Bill tries a joke about pitchers needing bulletproof vests in a Mets-Yankees World Series. Even with a NYC audience, it falls flat. (Maybe BECAUSE it's a NYC audience.) Moving on...

11:55:11. Colbert asks about the USA Hoops team coming in third at the World Championships. "What the fark is going on?" (Yep: LOVE the use of "fark.")

OK, this is DIRECTLY in Bill's wheelhouse – basketball. I have very high expectations for what comes next:

Bill offers up an explanation that we throw a team together in two weeks, versus the Greeks, who have been "playing together for, like, 20 years," etc.

What the hell? Is Colbert interviewing Ric Bucher here? Hit me with some vintage Simmons, man! Tell me how "Laguna Beach" is really a parable for Coach K's ineffectiveness as an Xs and Os coach!

Simmons: "The funny thing is that none of those guys could play in the NBA. Which is weird." Weird: Yes. Funny? No. At least not when noted on this particular TV program. (Perhaps ANY.) But I quibble with semantics...

11:55:47. The "Greek" interview line comes to a screeching halt. Bill ends a sentence. The audience is quiet. Colbert seems stymied, reaching for anything to make this a funny.

(Pause DVR)

I ask myself: What must "Dad" be thinking right now? I know: "Why haven't I heard of this 'Cole-bear' guy? Was he on the Boston Globe NBA draft cheat sheet? Is he another one of those foreign players?" (That would be Bill's Dad – always referred to as "Dad" and never "my dad." I'm guessing my own father is watching Colbert right now and wondering how my erstwhile "Around the Horn" career could have been so unmercifully euthanized.)

(Unpause DVR)

11:56:35. Bill starts talking about how the NBA players didn't want to be there, and how we should send all high school kids. "It'll be like 'Miracle on Ice.'" It feels a little off the rails right now. I'll tell you what the "miracle" would be: That Colbert saves the end of this segment with a nice kicker right here. Ask, and ye shall...

Colbert: "You know what I say? I say 'Basketball on Ice!'"

And that's the segment closer; at this point, probably mercifully.

11:26:45. Segment wraps. Colbert pimps the book, thanks Bill for coming on. The exit music plays and the camera pans back into a fuzzy fade-out. I'm waiting to see if Colbert (or Bill) extend a handshake. Neither does.

I'm not sure what – if anything – this means. I've seen guests get a big handshake afterwards; I've seen guests get nothing. I wonder how Colbert feels the segment went? (And I'm wondering how Bill thought it went... I'm positive there's a column in this, hopefully soon.)

Wrap-up: OK, so all in all, Bill was OK. Certainly not great. But not awful. I'm not going to dismiss that being good on Colbert is difficult as hell: Maybe the most difficult interview in late-night TV.

It's Colbert's show. He's got to be "on." To keep pace, the interviewee has got to be "on," too. And I've seen WAY too many who fall flat. They can't all be Stone Phillips.

Being extemporaneously funny on TV is incredibly hard. Just watch Tony Kornheiser, who is GREAT on TV (and vastly more experienced on TV than someone like Bill), yet still manages to have as many dribblers as he does ropes so far on MNF.

The reason that Colbert and the Daily Show crew can pull it off is that they're masters of the form. So maybe it's not fair to ask someone like Bill, a master of online writing but certainly not on-air TV, to be even close to as good or entertaining as he is in his columns.

I'm not trying to be an apologist for him. I'm just wondering what kind of expectations Bill's fans had for him.

If those expectations were as high as they are for his writing, the basic gist of today's post-Colbert commentary will be: "Wow, was he not as good as he is online."

If you had low expectations, he did OK. Again, he wasn't great. If you thought he'd be like he was in his column, you'd be disappointed. If you knew he wasn't as good in broadcast, you probably thought nothing worse than "eh."

The non-sports fan – the one who had never even heard of Simmons before he walked on the set – probably found it less dynamic than the usual guest but certainly unoffensive. (Hell, bland is fine: The guy was on national TV getting to promote his book. The performance is icing.)

More than anything, it was a showcase of the difference between someone with complete mastery of online persona (Simmons) and complete mastery of TV persona (Colbert)... and Bill was playing on the road this time.

-- D.S.

Reggie Bush Busted by Yahoo!
Shanoff: Heisman his Heisman!
Is Auburn the REAL '04 champ?

Reggie Bush could be screwed. USC will be screwed. The upshot: SO WHAT NEXT?!

Congratulations to Yahoo! Sports on the site's biggest scoop ever and by far the biggest story of the day/week/month in sports:

An investigation that busts Reggie Bush for taking $100K in freebies from would-be (and will-be) marketing reps -- a follow-up to their original scoop a few months ago first peeling back the onion on this.

Here's the direct link to their story.

The whole scandal raises three key questions:


One of the most frustrating things about college sports scandals is that the player who does the damage is rarely punished – he's off to his millions in the NFL, virtually untouchable, leaving everyone else to deal with the crap.

Except in this case. There is something punitive that can be done to Bush that would hit him where it really hurts:

Take away his Heisman. Call it my "Heisman His Heisman" campaign.

He may have been the most exciting player ever in college football, but that doesn't mean he can't make himself ineligible for the Heisman Trophy.

I'd strip Bush of the trophy and give it to runner-up Vince Young. That's adding insult to injury. (And righting a wrong: The Rose Bowl proved that VY deserved the Heisman last year.)


I like Dan Wetzel's first-to-market argument that the NCAA take away USC's 2004 national title.

The most fascinating upshot? That makes Auburn your 2004 national champ. (Remember: Auburn was unbeaten and controversially left out of the BCS title game. They ended the season No. 2 in the final BCS rankings. If I was Auburn, I would start this p.r. campaign RIGHT NOW.)

It's too bad that the rest of the team would have to pay for Bush's mistakes; that's perpetually the biggest injustice of NCAA sanctions.

(And speaking of sanctions, the NCAA has got to punish the program going forward, beyond retroactively stripping them of their national title. I'd take away two years of bowl eligibility. If I was the Pac-10, I'd throw in a year of not being allowed on TV. That's the 21st century equivalent of the old 1980s "death penalty." No TV? Nooo!!!)


Yahoo has a report that the RBs coach knew about the Bush situation and didn't do anything about it. That guy better polish up his resume. Maybe Reggie can get him a job cleaning toilets for the Saints.

But I think it would be a mistake to let Pete Carroll off the hook, simply because he claims not to have known anything.

As the head of the program – its CEO, effectively – he is responsible for what happens. To think that he didn't keep tabs on his best player either shows remarkable willful negligence -- or remarkable willful stupidity. With either excuse, do you really want that guy coaching your team?

I'm sure USC will slap him on the wrist, but let's please not accept his "I didn't know nuthin'" plausible deniability. It was his JOB to keep his players – and program – clean.

Comments spin-off question: What's your take on this entire thing? If it's all true, what's the most appropriate punishment? How do you reconcile the inability to really punish Bush with all the weight of his infractions falling on the USC program? Where's USC's culpability in all this? What do you think of my "Strip-the-Heisman" idea?

-- D.S.

Friday A.M. Quickie: I'm All 'Eers

This Reggie Bush scandal (via Yahoo Sports) is the biggest story of the day. I'll have a stand-alone item on it coming later this morning. Meanwhile...

WVA demolishes Maryland, 45-24: This was exactly the national-TV spanking I said WVA needed to have. Perfect execution: Go up 28-0 in the first quarter -- most poll voters probably turned the game off after that, satisfied they just watched a BCS title contender.

No matter what Brady Quinn does this weekend, I'm bumping him from my Heisman Top 3 for Steve Slaton, who had 149 yards and 2 TDs... in the first quarter!

Sorry, Adrian Peterson: Slaton is the most exciting RB in college football, a poor man's Reggie Bush... without the $100K in free swag.

P.S.: If you haven't checked it out, you must read the WVA-MD Comment string on readers' "Best Sports Moment" from yesterday (165 when I last checked, by far the most comments on a single topic yet). Absolutely great stuff from everyone. Huge thanks for participating!

Tiger: NOT World's Greatest Athlete. Woods loses in FIRST ROUND of World Match Play: Best athlete in the world? (Even more ludicrous: Best athlete EVER?) PLEASE. No one who loses in the first round of a one-on-one tournament can be considered the best athlete in the world. Roger Federer plays one-on-one tournmanets EVERY WEEK; think he'd lose in the first round (or, to be apples-to-apples, the round of 64)? Hells no.

Steve Foley Story Takes Strange Turn: As if it needed any more, now prosecutors want to test Foley's blood for steroids, arguing that his actions couldn't possibly have been from alcohol alone.

(So they assume it's a roid rage? Have they never seen a belligerent drunk? They need to spend more time with frat guys. Still, this is a weird story getting weirder. I'm betting PFT is all over this later today.)

MLB De Facto Playoffs: Padres at Dodgers. San Diego is only .5 GB the Dodgers heading into their huge weekend series. I know there are a lot of games left, but head-to-head is the quickest way to generate space between you and a division rival – and to capture stretch momentum.

Update (12:03 p.m.): Wow, what a signal of what a non-event the Yankees-Red Sox series is that I didn't mention it in my first pass-through this morning. I think that says more than any commentary I might make about the weekend series. There's just no drama.

(I suppose if there's one particular drama, it's the MVP battle between Ortiz and Jeter. And I'm getting more and more of a feeling that Jeter is going to win.)

Liriano Mystery: If he's still got no structural damage, why is he in so much pain? The Mystery Strain should concern Twins fans more than something more serious, but at least knowable.

Want some good "Dancing with the Stars" analysis? Check out Rachel Sklar's analysis of Tucker Carlson from the Huffington Post's Eat the Press section. If "DWTS" has an online-media-only edition, I want to see Rachel out there (and I'll totally be a contestant too, obviously).

Coming later today: My live-blog (or maybe you'd call it a "running diary") of Bill Simmons on Colbert Report. Posted. Here's the link.

Also coming later today: Standalone items for the complete week in college football (picks!) and the NFL (more picks!) I was going to post them early, but I want to make sure I don't push the Simmons/Colbert post too far down before it gets a good run at the top. Coming soon.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

CFB Thursday Mania: Maryland at WVA

UPDATE (1:50 p.m.): If you haven't checked out the Comment section to this post (and added your own entry), you're missing out. It is INCREDIBLE. See the end of this post. -- D.S.

(Looking for today's Quickie-ish Wrap? It's two posts down, or here's a direct link. )

How do I know it's a slow news day? Because I got 800 words out of the West Virginia game tonight. I guess I'm very serious about promoting them; they deserve it.

FINALLY: A chance for the entire country to see what a juggernaut the 'Eers are.

If I was WVA, I would show no mercy on Maryland, running up the score and essentially FORCING poll voters to respect them. (And I say that as a Maryland sympathizer.*)

WVA arguably has the best and/or most dominant and/or most telegenic offense in college football this season. It is the "spread" as it should be run.

(When I was in Gainesville, I heard some local talk radio caller questioning whether the spread can work in the SEC. Well, my fine cracker friend, it seemed to work just fine as WVA ran it up on Georgia in the bowl game last year.)

Here's my prediction about WVA coach Rich Rodriguez:

It's going to take all of one WVA rout tomorrow night -- combined with one more Michigan shit-laying against Charlie Weis and Notre Dame -- to put Rodriguez at the top of every Michigan fan's list to coach the team next year, even if WVA doesn't end up in the BCS title game.

(I heard an awesome piece of inside dope a few weeks ago that Those Who Decide the Fate of Michigan Coaches have one non-"Michigan Family" name on their short list: Rodriguez. It made sense even before I heard that, but it's an interesting little piece of gossip.)

And I'm working on a parallel theory that, in addition to Michigan, the other most natural place for Rodriguez would be replacing Bobby Bowden at Florida State. Hiring the West Virginia coach seemed to work out just fine for FSU when they imported Bowden.

Oh, and WVA football fans are just about as jack-loony hillbilly partisans as you'll find. And I say that with the UTMOST respect and appreciation. (Seriously, please don't hurt me.) They are THE most underrated fans in college football. As good as ANY of the more "celebrated" fan bases.

Cripes, if there was to be a 64-team single-elimination battle royale to determine the biggest ass-kicking fans in college football, I'd put my money on the WVA fans. Because THEY SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF ME. In a fun way!

-- D.S.

* -- Maryland? You might be confused, as I have also professed to be a Florida and Northwestern fan. Let me clarify the record, for those of you entering the story late:

Northwestern: I went there for college and, consequently, have an alumni's rabid passion for football and hoops. NU's run to the Rose Bowl in 1995 remains in the Top 3 greatest events of my life. It used to be No. 1, but was bumped for Marriage and Birth-of-child.

(Who else agrees that the "What's the Greatest Event in Your Life?" discussion should include the caveat "Besides marriage and birth of children, if applicable." Maybe the question should simply be "What's the Greatest SPORTS Event in Your Life?" In that case, NU going to the Rose Bowl remains No. 1.)

Northwestern basketball continues to give me tsurris.

Florida: I became a huge fan when I met my wife, who is from Gainesville (contrary to popular myth, she did not GO to Florida, although most of her extended family did). I almost instantly adopted the Gators as my most closely followed team in football and hoops. (That worked out nicely last March.)

Maryland: I grew up in suburban DC on the Maryland side as a huge Terps basketball fan. (Terps football? Not so much. It was never that big of a deal... maybe because the team sucked. College football culture in D.C. is pretty weak, probably because the NFL culture is so dominant. College hoops culture, however, is VERY strong, given the ACC influence.)

I appreciate your patience as I self-indulgently attempt to explain away how I root for 3 different college teams, to varying degrees.

Let me spark the Comments by asking this: I just told you MY favorite sports moment of my life. What's yours? Seriously: I really AM curious. Those of you who ever participated in my "Morning Quickie" chat on know that readers' own opinions are really important to me.

-- D.S.

A Note About Comments

I love 99 percent of the comments made on the blog. I can't get enough. They're clever and insightful and usually take anything I've written to a much more interesting level. However, I'm pretty close to changing the "Comments" system to "registered users only." 90 percent of the comments made are already by registered users, and even though SOME "anonymous" comments are very good, others are just a distraction. "Registered" comments won't necessarily end the dumb comments, but they will clear out at least some of the junk without making it too difficult for most of you to keep delivering your awesome adds to the discussion. Thoughts?

Looking for today's Quickie-ish wrap? Check out the next item below.

Update (1:53 p.m.): Thanks to everyone who chimed in using the Comments area. I'm going to make commenting a "registered only" thing... at least for now. We'll see how it goes. From my understanding, you don't have to actually set up a blog to become registered. You can simply get a registration name and away you go. I appreciate everyone's understanding on this, and hopefully it'll lead to more enjoyment for everyone.

-- D.S.

Thursday A.M. Wrap: Liria-NO!!!

Liriano done for season: Did the Twins rush the phenom back? Did the fans pile on the pressure? Whatever the underlying reasons, Liriano obviously returned prematurely, because his elbow couldn't hold up to the game pressure, and now he's done for the season – you have to wonder if there will be any longer-lasting issues to his career. Anything less than a Twins World Series title this season, and you have to ask: Was it worth the rush to get him back?

Update: As pointed out in the Comments section, I may be WAY off here, and I defer to the best Twins expert of any baseball writer out there: Aaron Gleeman. Here's his post.

CFB Story of the Year, Cont'd: That Northern Colorado backup punter was freed on bail yesterday after being arrested for allegedly stabbing the starting punter.

This is college football's version of the old Texas mom puts out a hit on her daughter's cheerleading rival. Where's the made-for-TV movie, and how do we get James Van Der Beek as the psychotic backup punter?

Trent Green hit legit: The NFL had no problems with Geathers' hit on the KC QB, mainly (a) blaming the victim for a late slide and (b) blaming his teammates for pushing Geathers into him. I'm sure KC fans will be thrilled.

Freaky NFL Trade of the Day: Samkon Gado for Vernand Morency. Forget the talents involved; this may very well be the greatest "all-name" trade in NFL history.

So here's the spin-off question: Which player will end the season with more wins? It's a total toss-up: Anyone who thinks the Packers are a lock to win more than the Texans is fooling themselves.

Gamecocks QB suspended: If you're Steve Spurrier's QB, you don't waste the opportunity by getting into a stupid bar fight and getting suspended. Or, alternatively, maybe playing for Spurrier is so bad that a bar fight and suspension look good in comparison.

Lance defends himself (again): I'm still trying to decide if there's a direct correlation between the level, intensity and responsiveness of Lance Armstrong's full-court press defensive p.r. strategy and his level of... what's the technical term? Oh, yes: "Hiding shit."

Gary Matthews Jr hits for cycle: Has any player made a reputation off of less? He's had all of TWO great games this season: That first one, which got him on the All-Star team and now this one. Both on slow news days. Good timing.

Seems like a slow news day today. What am I missing?

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

John Hodgman: F***ing Genius

If there was any doubt that John Hodgman is a fucking genius (and I don't throw around the "F.G." tag as freely as I do the superlatives), his ad campaign for the paperback version of "The Areas of My Expertise" would be it.

It's an homage to George Plimpton's old Intellivision ad.

(You know Intellivision right? What's the birth-year cut-off to know/love/remember Intellivision? Basic recap: It was a short-lived competitor to Atari, the gold standard, and Coleco, which had that kick-ass driving-wheel accessory. Meanwhile, I myself had a Vectrex, which sounds vaguely like a product you'd use to clear up an STD. Now who remembers Vectrex?! This was all pre-Nintendo, of course.)

Hodgman's version.

Original, Plimptonian version.

It happens that I picked up "Areas of My Expertise" in paperback last week and have been enjoying it since. Highly recommended.

In true Hodgman fashion:
That is all.

Thanks to Gawker for the tip-off.

-- D.S.

Wednesday A.M. Wrap: Emmittric Bugaloo!

I will only talk about this once, then try to not hammer it the rest of the week:

Emmitt Smith was FREAKING INCREDIBLE on Dancing with the Stars last night. By far the most impressive dancer of the night.

(Yes, Margery and I watched. You scoff? First of all, more people watch DWTS than almost any other show on TV; that doesn't make it unmockable -- however, it does put me in the mainstream to be watching. Second, I'll continue to argue that ballroom dancing is a sport. Certainly more of a sport than, say, poker. Third, like last season, there is a HUGE sports hook: The leading rusher in NFL history is participating. My question: How could you NOT be watching him?)

Anyone who previously made a joke about Emmitt embarrassing himself on this show (and I think I was one of them) is WRONG. Couldn't be more wrong.

He was relaxed. He was enjoying himself. And his moves were legit! Given Jerry Rice's success on the show last season, it's obvious that there's something to translating football skills to the dance floor.

But Emmitt was awesome. I'm stunned. Given that (a) it was live and (b) it was a huge chance for Emmitt to embarrass himself on national TV, it was a pretty gripping 2 minutes. Certainly more dramatic and exciting than the last 2-plus seasons of his NFL career.

(Meanwhile, my pick, Mario Lopez, was pretty damn good; one judge called Lopez the guy to beat Why do my "expert" "sports" "predictions" always hit the jackpot on the lamest shit?)

ESPN "MNF" ratings are HUGE: Not just huge, but ESPN's largest audience EVER. (And you know how I love a good superlative.)

In fact, it was the second-most-watched cable TV event ever, behind... do you know off the top of your head? (It was the Gore-Perot debate about NAFTA. It is mind-blowing that a public policy debate would be the most-watched thing ever on cable.)

I think these numbers justify the "Is It Monday Yet?" hype. It's no small thing to produce your biggest audience number ever, particularly in the digital cable/PS2/iTunes/YouTube era.

But I'll be curious to track how they hold up over the season: Fans' appetite for the NFL -- particularly "MNF" can't be much higher than the season-opener. What happens when the matchups start to get a little less exciting? (Maybe they'll import Dick Vermeil for a little extra sizzle. The one consensus from MNF Week 1 seems to be that he was the best of the TV analysts. Did people forget how good he was on college football games before his return to the NFL with the Rams?)

Lance: "Hatchet job!" Armstrong calls NYT story about his 1999 TdF teammates' EPO use a "hatchet job." Actually, if he was upset by the guilt-by-association from the article, what does he think of the recent wink-wink, nudge-nudge gossip coverage of his, um, friendship with Matthew McConaughey?

File this quote away: "I don't believe there's a lot of uncaught use." That's NFL union honcho Gene Upshaw on the NFL's HGH problem. He said it because he's the head of the union, but it's ludicrous.

Shell calls Raiders "embarrassing": So what does that make the coach?

More Raiders: Jerry Porter denied openly rooting against his team on Monday night. (But you have to imagine that he was rooting against them on the inside. Did anyone ask him THAT?)

I want a scale model of Danica Patrick's hot new Batmobile-looking "Danica-mobile" race car. (Wait: Or do I want a scale model of Danica herself? Is there an action figure yet? Is that, uh, weird?)

Bengals' Henry pleads guilty: If every Bengal can steer clear of jail simply by pleading guilty, they'll have a team of criminals -- but at least still have a team.

Rick DiPietro: 15 years, $67.5 million. (Wait, I'm sorry: GUARANTEED.) Who says that the NHL's finances are a wreck? Wow, that lockout was SO worth it...

Big Ben questionable for Week 2: Cowher says if he can play, he'll play. But having watched "my" Jags D on Sunday, I can say with confidence that the Steelers should NOT play him.

Deion Branch's new deal: 6 years, $39 million ($13 million bonus). (Yes, you bet your ass that holdout was worth Every. Damn. Penny. If he'd stayed in NE, he would've been paid a paltry $1 million. No wonder the Pats want $800K back.)

Kevin "Munchies" Grubb refused to submit to a random drug test at a NASCAR event over the weekend. Yeah, there's no WAY he was on anything.

ESPN to stream Champions League online: I'm all for any new TV deals that wrap in b'band. And for a mere $1,250, you can catch every game.

Uniform Watch: Here's a jaw-dropper. Not to steal Paul Lukas' gig, but this is cool: Instead of taking money from some random sponsor to put their logo on their jerseys, FC Barcelona – reigning Champions League champ – will actually pay UNICEF $2 million a year for 5 years to have the UNICEF logo on their jersey. Before this, Barca had never had a logo on their jersey. Now, when they decide to do it, it's more good-of-the-world than greed. (Take that, Chelsea.) What an amazingly positive mold-breaker in sports today.

More DWTS: Anyone watch the season premiere last night? Let me say this: I actually KNOW that hottie co-host Samantha! We went to Northwestern together! We once worked on an econ class project together! That's as close as I've come to TV stardom since my ill-fated appearances on "Around the Horn." (I gotta put those on YouTube...)

-- D.S.

MLB Wednesday Wrap: Braves Reign Over!

I wasn't sure when to discuss the end of the Braves' streak of consecutive division titles, but the morning after their mathematical elimination seems as good a time as any.

Here's my question: Where does the Braves' streak rank among all-time streaks in baseball? How about all-time team streaks in sports? Is it up there with UCLA's hoops run? I'd argue that relative competition in baseball over the last 15 years made the Braves' run MORE impressive than UCLA's.

I've said this for as long as I've written the Quickie: The Braves' consecutive-division-title streak is the most impressive ever in team sports. More than UCLA. More than the Yankees. More than Oklahoma's 1970s winning streak (though consecutive games and consecutive division titles, especially in two different sports, is really apples-to-oranges.)

(The only real downside to the Braves' run? All those division titles, with only ONE World Series title to show for it. I've argued this before: I'll take 2 playoff appearances – and 2 World Series championships (Marlins) – over 14 playoff appearances and only one W.S. title.)

So, in the Comments Question of the Day, where do you rank the Braves' streak? How huge was it? Of all reasonable MLB streaks -- individual and team -- is this the most likely to go unbroken? I'm no Braves fan, but it's worthy of the question.

More Wednesday MLB Notes:

David Ortiz is whining with the way the media portrayed his griping about the AL MVP voting. What a clod: He said what he said, and now is probably worried that he alienated MVP voters by saying it. He's the MVP all right: "Most Valuable P----."

AL Central Mania: The White Sox lost another game to the Twins (who beat the A's) and the Tigers (who edged the Rangers).

On the plus side, if there's a single-elimination playoff between the teams for either the Wild Card or the division title, the White Sox would have home-field advantage, courtesy of the ol' coin flip.

(The defending champs are SO FAR AWAY from being able to use that coin flip. Maybe they can trade it to the Twins in exchange for getting a game back in the Wild Card standings. What a trade that would be!)

The Mets can clinch the NL East division title tonight. See above item, but Mets fans under the age of, say, 21 can't remember a time when the Braves didn't win the division. That's wild.

Hideki Matsui is back in the NYY lineup (4 hits) and Sheffield may be back later this week. And the Yankees just became a lot more dangerous. Right now, even with the iffy pitching, they're my pick to win the AL title. And it gives me no joy to say that.

Albert Pujols beat Brad Lidge... all together now: "AGAIN."

The Blue Jays say they lost $22 million this season. Given that they took on $20 million in new salaries, that's not so surprising. It's too bad they lost the money they spent, because it was heartening to see them spend to try to be competitive in the first place. Hopefully, they'll still stick to their plan to continue spending this offseason.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Best Deal Ever?

Guy who owns a furniture store offers free merch if the Bears held the Packers to a shutout. Whoops.

MNF: Skins Fizzle, Chargers Sizzle

MNF1: Vikes top Skins. I know that Clinton Portis was hurt, but I'm beginning to think new offensive coordinator Al Saunders is all talk.

The $2 million assistant coach boasts of a 700-page playbook and of only showcasing 2 percent of his offense during the preseason.

Well, now we're in the regular season, and the Redskins racked up all of 266 yards and one measly TD (thanks to a game but limited Portis).

Tony Kornheiser had it right at the start of the broadcast: Al Saunders needed to show Redskins fans something last night. And he didn't.

Meanwhile, I love TK. I've been reading him in the newspaper since I was a kid growing up in D.C., and I got the chance to really be a booster in the Quickie the morning of his MNF preseason debut. But why was he so milquetoast last night? I want my Mr. Tony back!

(MNF Extra: There was this great graphic early in the game listing all of the many, many QBs drafted before Brad Johnson in 1992. It's a bit misleading: That entire group included all bonafide college starters; remember, Brad Johnson was the Matt Cassel of Florida State: He barely played in college. Now, that doesn't diminish his incredible pro career. But it explains his original draft position.)

Update (10:50 a.m.): OK, I totally whiffed on having NOTHING about Tom Cruise being Dan Snyder's very special guest at the game. Will Leitch at Deadspin was all over it, as usual.

MNF2: Chargers blank Raiders. Philip Rivers doesn't have to be great or even particularly good. He just has to kind of hang around, handing the ball to LT and letting the defense pitch a shutout.

It WAS a win over the hapless Raiders, but the Chargers finished Week 1 with the NFL's most impressive win, given the questions about dumping vet QB Drew Brees for the untested Rivers.

Rivers' stat line spoke volumes: 8/11 for 108 yards and a TD. Not Manning-ish, but perfectly fine when his RB can have 131 rushing yards and the D can have 9 sacks.

Comment Question: Which teams (and/or players) were YOUR biggest studs (or duds) of Week 1?

Check out the next item for a complete Quickie-style wrap-up of the biggest stories in sports today.

-- D.S.

Update: "Are you retarded?": The most honest NFL quote of 2006 comes from Tom Jackson to Michael Irvin on Sunday NFL Countdown. Here's the link to the video.

(I don't really condone the language: It shows a real -- and rare -- lack of sensitivity on TJ's part. But, as long as he was going to say it, it was very effective.)

Tuesday A.M. Wrap: More Lance Trouble?

Lance's teammates 'fess up to EPO: Two of Lance's teammates in '99 confess to using EPO – more incredibly damning (albeit still circumstantial) evidence that the chance Lance wasn't using SOMETHING was low. It's just that Lance wasn't LANCE in '99 – he was just a dude trying to break through. And the sport was SO thoroughly corrupted with illegal drugs, it's hard to believe that he steered clear. Maybe, coming off the cancer, he avoided them. Maybe he's SUCH a once-in-a-lifetime athlete that he avoided them. But it's VERY hard to shake the perception questioning how he could have possibly NOT done it?

AL Central: Tigers freaking yet? The Twins won last night, putting them just 1.5 GB the Tigers in the AL Central. But Detroit fans shouldn't freak until the Tigers lose the Wild Card, too. As recent playoff history has shown, the important thing isn't winning the division anymore; it's making the playoffs, any way you can.

The Marlins absolutely crushed the Mets 16-5, and it's games like that where you truly realize how special this Florida team is this year. I really hope they make the playoffs, but I'm not holding my breath.

Papi vs. Jeter: After Ortiz ripped Jeter over the AL MVP vote, DJ – obviously – took the high ground, refusing to engage. Papi's going to lose the MVP; Jeter is very likely going to win (unless there's a late-breaking "Anyone But Jeter (Except for Papi)" campaign. I'd be all for that, actually.

Packers pick up Koren Robinson: It's gotten this bad this quickly that they gotta sign the guy likely to be suspended the rest of the season?

(Meanwhile, how does Robinson fit into Mike McCarthy's "driving-blunder-the-influence" play-calling that emphasizes the run?)

Pats trade Branch to Seahawks: Presumably, things can only get better for Seattle after that sorry 9-point opening game.

Pats file tampering charge against Jets over Branch: This seems kind of petty, given that they just traded him.

Trent Green out indefinitely: As if Herman Edwards' "short-bus" school of offensive philosophy needed more obstacles.

The Commish wants to meet with Jansen over Jansen's HGH claims. Jansen already backtracked, claiming he didn't know that "15 to 20 percent" was such a big number. Uh, yeah, right.

QBs Bledsoe and Collins still starting, even though their teams lost. The Cowboys are a Week 2 loss away from hitting the Panic button; the Titans have already all but admitted this year is a throwaway anyway.

I was thrilled to hear that the 19-year-old Clemson football player who is taking care of his 11-year-old brother was given a special dispensation by the NCAA to earn more money than the max allowed by rules. A rare example of good sense and compassion by the NCAA.

JJ Redick pleads guilty to DUI: And I'll bet that if he was less of a, um, "Duke"-type player, they would have thrown the book at him.

Toni Kukoc to retire? Best known for (a) being Euro before being Euro was cool; (b) the awesome nickname "The Waiter"; and (c) having more rings than Barkley.

Suns eyeing Kandi Man: Given PHX's record with taking other team's trash and turning it into treasure, how much do you want to bet Olowokandi turns into a productive big man within that roster?

"Dancing with the Stars 3: Emmittric Bugaloo." Full preview coming later today, but needless to say, my money's on A.C. Slater.

(Here's a fun fact: More people will watch this first episode of "DWTS3" than the entire lifespan of "ESPN Hollywood," which Mario Lopez hosted.)

-- D.S.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Football View in America?"

My wife* had the best NFL analysis of the day, perhaps inspired after sitting with me all afternoon watching NFL games:

We were checking out the slick new NBC pregame show, and she astutely noted the new "Football Night in America" studio team is obviously modeled after the cackling hags on "The View":

Bob Costas replicates Barbara Walters' "mother hen" role.

Chris Collinsworth is a forcing-the-funny Joy Behar.

Sterling Sharpe is Star Jones (but not because they're both black, my wife clarified, but because, like Star, Sterling is so fundamentally unlikeable. Also: As names, "Star" and "Sterling" even SOUND the same.)

Finally, Jerome Bettis is a hybrid of Rosie O'Donnell (both resident chuckling fatties) and Elizabeth Hasselbeck (both wide-eyed does who say nothing of real value).

And, whether or not you've ever watched "The View," you know all those characters -- and you have to agree that she's pretty right-on.

-- D.S.

* - Not to go all Bill Simmons on you. However, a sports columnist relaying analysis from spouse (or parent or sibling or friend or neighbor or co-worker or etc.) has historically been very fertile territory for writing fodder, probably since the earliest "fportf" pamphlets of journalistic history. (Please tell me someone gets the "fportf" joke.)

Update (8:12 a.m.): I can already tell that there is a huuuuge "Where's my ESPN NFL Primetime?" backlash brewing. It was, arguably, the best show on ESPN (no matter what kind of mixed feelings you may have felt about Chris Berman). When the new NFL deal came out, the cancellation of "Primetime" was a small footnote, but its importance looms huge this morning. Who else thinks that putting a version of Primetime exclusively online would set all kinds of Web-usage records? (It doesn't have to be the full hour, but it could be more than the shadow of its former self that is planned for the late Sunday SportsCenter.) Would the NFL deal permit an online-only show? I'm guessing not, but it's still a great idea.

Brett Favre Absolutely Sucks

Did that get your attention? It should. He's awful. Terrible. Get out of the game, guy! You're an embarrassment to yourself, your franchise and your fans.

No, seriously, if ever there was a game to send Favre into retirement, it's the first one in his career he's been shut out. At home. In the season-opener. To his team's biggest rival.

But that's too kind: His interceptions were so atrocious that they made me actually wonder if he gives a shit at all anymore, or if he's just flinging it up to satisfy his own ego. "Forcing it" doesn't even begin to describe it.

He must be hating life so badly, I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. If it wasn't for the fact that he's holding his fans and franchise essentially hostage, I'd have sympathy.

(And I have zero sympathy for Packers fans, who in turning him into a god -- yes, making him even bigger than the storied franchise itself -- are actually the ones responsible for this mess. They could have driven him out of town last summer, knowing full-well that last season's problems were no fluke. No other reasonable fans would have blamed them for exiling him.)

It's so obvious that the Packers are going to -- what's the technical term? -- suck balls this year, to play Favre now would simply be a futile exercise in hero worship. It's time to tell him he can feel free to retire, but they're going to play the backup (Aaron Rodgers), whether or not he's the heir apparent. They need to see if he can get the job done before they invest in AJ Hawk's brother-in-law next year with that No. 1 pick they're going to have.

(Meanwhile, how ironic that it was Favre's opposite, Rex Grossman, who was the QB who actually earned the right to be left alone, at least for another week.)

For more Week 1 analysis, keep reading...

-- D.S.

NFL Week 1 Wrap:
Manning Bowl? T.O. Bowl? Ugh.

Manning vs. Manning: Ugh. Can't we just focus on the fact that the Colts beat the Giants? Sure, the siblings combined for more than 500 yards passing, but I'd say it was more the "Adam V. Bowl," where the Colts' new kicker had 4 field goals and laid the foundation for the kicking confidence that will take them to the Super Bowl. (I promise I'll stop beating this prediction to death.)

Jags Top T.O.: Oh, wait, were they playing an entire Cowboys team? I'm sure T.O. will find a reason to blame everyone except himself for the Cowboys losing his opener with the team. If "everyone" means "Drew Bledsoe."

Meanwhile, my new favorite team made me proud with a huge win at home. With the defending champs on deck next week on MNF, this is huge mo, though they lost DE Hayward for the season.

Now, on to the day's other big NFL storylines:

Reggie Bush's very solid debut: Reggie Bush can put together nearly 150 yards of rushing, receiving and returning EVERY weekend, he's going to be great. (But where are the TDs?! In a fantasy-driven world, TDs are the true measure of greatness.) Meanwhile, you have to feel good for the Saints winning their season-opener.

Super Bowl runner-up jinx? I'm sorry: What happened to Seattle's punchy offense? It takes a last-gasp field goal to beat Detroit? That's just pathetic.

Broken Ankles Alert! How fast will that Panthers-Super Bowl bandwagon lose its overflow of riders?

Dante Stallworth wins the Week 1 award for "Acquisition of the Offseason." My question: Happy McNabb makes Stallworth look good? Or Stallworth (aka "Not T.O.") makes McNabb happy?

(Losing side: Mario Williams was WAY too quiet in comparison to Reggie Bush to keep fans from griping.)

The Pats are in some trouble if they're barely surviving against the Bills at home.

(Losing side: Is there a yet? Frankly, nearly beating the Pats had to have been a best-case scenario for Bills fans. Right up until that safety.)

OK, who replaced the old Ravens with the most impressive Week 1 team in the NFL? 28 points AND a shutout? Uh, how good does the NFC North look right now, between the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals?

(Losing side: Chris Simms ain't the answer. Can you feel the mojo for Bruce Gradkowski?)

Arizona: Home Cooking! Who would have thought the best game of the day would be the barn-burner in the desert between the Cards and 49ers?

Mangini wins debut: Congrats to Jets coach Eric Mangini who earned a gritty one on the road, letting the Titans get back into it but riding Pennington's 300 yards (who saw THAT coming?) to the W.

(Losing side: How cool was it to see Vince Young see some game action? He brings an added dimension to the offense, but more than anything, you could feel the energy level rise -- through the TV, no less.)

The Bengals are going to be very good. Without TJ Housh, and they still put 23 on the Chiefs. Apparently, KC's once-great offense has atrophied under Herm Edwards, and its defense hasn't gotten better enough.

Rams beat Broncos: I don't know about you, but Denver's loss, combined with Jake Plummer's zero-TD, 3-INT game, makes me think that it's time for the Jay Cutler Era to begin in Denver.

(Losing side: For a team with more than 300 yards of total offense, the Rams had little to show for it... unless you were a fantasy owner with Jeff Wilkins. The new Neil Rackers!)

Fantasy note: I'm in a Yahoo league, and I have to say that Yahoo's GameChannel/StatTracker application is pretty cool. On the fantasy "StatTracker" side, they'll let you see not only how your lineup is doing, but how your bench is doing – all in real-time, of course – along with how your "optimal lineup" would be doing... if you were smart enough to have started it. It's very clean and easy to use, and has made my myopic fantasy-tracking throughout the day a lot easier – and, frankly, more fun.

Monday Night Football x 2: Let's see: The Redskins had about 15 yards of total offense in four preseason games AND they'll be playing without Clinton Portis (or, at least, without him being much of a factor). The Vikings' defense looks much-improved, and the offense was what was SUPPOSED to be improved in the offseason. I'll take the Minnesota Double-Sided Dildos to win on the road. In the second game, I predict a huge debut for Philip Rivers: You'd have one too if you got to throw to LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. Chargers over Raiders.

(By the way, who else missed "NFL Primetime?")

Sunday Picks: 10-3... which makes me better than my usual Quickie picks. (Season: 10-4)

-- D.S.

Monday A.M. Wrap: US Open Closed

Twins within 2 of Tigers: Are Tigers fans freaking out yet? Johan "Just Give Him the Cy Now" Santana struck out 11 and brought Minnesota within 2 games of Detroit for the division lead. From the AP story:

"The Twins haven't lost a Santana home start since Aug. 6, 2005, going 22-0 in that span. Santana (18-5) is 15-0 with a 1.92 ERA during that stretch and hasn't lost a game at all since the All-Star break."

Consider this: The Twins have closed nearly 10 games on the Tigers SINCE Francisco Liriano went on the DL. He's set to return this week. If he's back to form, suddenly the AL Central race – and the AL Wild Card – is up for grabs. Wow: A Tigers collapse right out of the playoffs would be an epic failure.

Federer wins men's U.S. Open: I can appreciate those who argue that Tiger Woods is the greatest athlete out there right now, but you can't possibly make the argument without mentioning Federer as his chief opposition.

It's not a stretch to say Roger is really the best athlete out there right now, a case I made in the Quickie after the Tiger-related Instant Histrionics that happened after his PGA Championship. (The argument is buried in the middle of the column under the header "Tiger: Best Ever?")

(By the way, I heard that Tiger was actually at the Open to celebrate with his pal Federer. It's not lovey-dovey like Lance and Matt "Cry in My Lonestar" McC., but the friendship covers two sports' worth of country-club dominance.)

Sharapova wins women's U.S. Open: I'm loathe to say this, because she had a great run and is a great player in a way that Anna Kournikova never was, but the fact remains that in the eyes of most sports fans, Maria Sharapova is an athlete-hottie first and a tennis talent second. And this is a priority she herself seems to continue to cultivate.

David Ortiz rips MVP voting: Go figure, just as his Red Sox fall helplessly out of playoff contention. It smacks of an intimidation ploy against the voters (who we all know are hardly fit for the job as it is).

I don't care that A-Rod won it for a last-place team; perhaps that shouldn't have happened. But Papi leading the AL in HR and RBI shouldn't necessarily be the only qualifier for MVP -- because he certainly doesn't earn it as a complete player or by leading his team to the playoffs.

Ortiz is locked in on my mythical ballot: Right there in 2nd place. Short of the Red Sox making a miracle run to the playoffs, that's where he'll stay.

Michael Schumacher is retiring: There won't ever be a more talented or internationally recognized athlete with LESS juice in the U.S. to retire.

Matt Stafford in at QB at UGA: Let the '06 rise of the true-frosh college QBs begin.

Latest Heisman ballot:
1. Troy Smith
2. Adrian Peterson
3. Begrudgingly, Brady Quinn

UPDATE: One last thing that might only intrigue me: Quickie readers know that I love an innovative sports-marketing idea, so suspense novelist Brad Meltzer pimping his new book "The Book of Fate" on the hood of a NASCAR car on Friday night is nothing short of awesome.

I've been delving more and more into the book-publishing industry over the last 12 months or so (for various reasons, one of which I'm sure you can guess), and smart, aggressive, out-of-the-box marketing seems to be EXACTLY what selling books needs.

Will the NASCAR stunt improve sales? At the level I'm talking about, it doesn't even really matter. It's just the fact that he tried it, where no other mainstream fiction writer would.

Meanwhile, Meltzer happens to be particularly bad-ass, across the board: He also is writing the re-launch of the new "Justice League" comic AND his book tour includes a blog component where he's doing "interviews" with celebrities across multiple blogs.

-- D.S.