Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Don't forget to have your say about today's big takes:
*NFL Week 3!
*College Football Weekend!
Meanwhile, here's my ranking of my Top 10 favorite newsmakers of the week:
10. Pete Rose: Hardly "Sorry" ($299!)
9. Subway MLB: Mets, Yankees clinch!
8. Ryan Longwell: NFC North's best QB!
7. Trevor Hoffman: All-time saves = Cy!
6. Joey Porter's dogs: Hide your horses!
5. Jags D: Pitched a shutout on MNF!
4. David Boren:
3. Elin Nordegren: She's no porn star!
2. "Game of Shadows" guys: Off to clink
1. Peter Gammons: Welcome back!
Comments: Who was YOUR most significant newsmaker of the week?
Enjoy your weekend! Don't forget: I won't be live-blogging over the weekend, but I'll absolutely have two posts up, one for college football and one for NFL. Pick up the ball and go-go-go!
Packers over Lions: The first of the week's four "Someone's-Gotta-Win-Their-First" games. If the Packers lose, Favre should quit. Monday.
Bears over Vikings: When Ryan Longwell is your team's most efficient QB, it's not going to be pretty against the NFC's best D.
Bills over Jets: Don't you get it? Don't you see?! The winner here is one step further from the top of the draft pile. The winner is really the LOSER. The loser is really the winner. Did I just blow your mind?
Bengals over Steelers: Cincy and Chad Johnson are going to go all "Joey Porter's dogs" on the dead horse that is the Steelers. What: Too insensitive?
Panthers over Bucs: Another "SGWT1st." One of these teams is going to start the season 0-3; the Bucs should start scouting Brady Quinn (who is overrated, but still).
Texans over Skins: Another "SGWT1st." I'm sure I'll regret this pick, but I just get the sense the Skins' season is a trainwreck-in-progress.
Ravens over Browns: What's up with Balto's supremely easy early schedule? When
Cardinals over Rams:
49ers over Eagles: Last week, I took the Niners over the Rams and I took a lot of grief. Gotta ride the hot horse. This will be a look-how-far-we've-come game.
Seahawks over Giants: You can already hear the Giants and their fans griping about the "12th Man" crowd noise. It's a built-in excuse for losing.
Dolphins over Titans: Another "SGWT1st." If the Fins are going to salvage an 0-2 start into a playoff run, it has to begin here.
SNF: Pats over Broncos: I'll bet Belichick isn't much for emotional ploys, but revenge for last season's playoff L might be a good time for one.
MNF: Falcons over Saints. Everyone say "Awww!" as the NFL returns to
Last week: 12-4
Comments Spin-Off Topic: What's the most intriguing plotline or matchup of Week 3? Who are the players to watch?
Note: Like college football Saturday, I won't be participating in any day-long live-blogging due to observance of Rosh Hashanah, but I'll set up a post for everyone to keep a running commentary going all day.
On it's face, Saturday's college football schedule looks like "chalking the walk" – every ranked team likely to win.
But, coming off my Clemson-over-FSU pick last week, I can see a few "trap" games.*
(* - Oh cripes: "Trap game" is one of the most b.s. terms in sports prognostication. Basically, you're hedging: If the favored team loses, you can say "I told you so." But you're not necessarily picking the underdog to win.)
No. 2 Auburn over
No. 3 USC over at
No. 4 WVA over at
No. 5 Florida over
No. 7 Texas over Iowa St: Still trying to convince voters a one-loss team should be ranked over unbeatens.
No. 9 Georgia over
No. 10 LSU over Tulane: The first of our "You don't want to be playing these guys the week after a nasty loss" game.
No. 11 VA Tech over Cincy: The cupcake path continues...
No. 12 Notre Dame over at Michigan St: TRAP GAME! Only because
No. 14 Iowa over
No. 18 FSU over Rice: The weakest, most predictable offense in the Top 25 *better* still be able to whoop Rice.
No. 19 Clemson over UNC: How is Clemson ranked behind FSU? What ass-jack voters put FSU ahead of Clemson? Who? How?
No. 20 BC at NC State: TRAP GAME! I know that NC State sucks this season, but they always pull one inspired game out of their hat. And BC owes the Karma Police...two times over (or two overtimes).
Comment Question: What's your biggest question, storyline, intrigue or X-factor on the weekend's college football schedule?
Note: I won't be doing the same type of day-/night-long live-blog I did last Saturday, because I'll be observing Rosh Hashanah.
I will, however, open up a post and let you comment throughout the day as much as you want. Carry the day on my behalf!
I'd argue the "Game of Shadows" argument is not quite as cut-and-dried (and perhaps not as overwraught) as Wright Thompson lays out on the front of ESPN.com this morning, but it's a great jump-off for a discussion.
As I mentioned in the post below, the filter through which fans are getting this story is slightly distorted: In stories where the media has a stake, expect the story to have a slant.
(For example, where's the column from Roger Cossack or someone else who might be able to explain that while these particular prosecutors might be overreaching, the principle of maintaining the integrity of the grand-jury process has significant societal benefit.)
That's not a bad thing: I certainly want journalists to be advocating ways they can do their job to the best of their ability, not about clamping down.
But I'm not sure if fans are reacting to that or just a different set of values when they respond to polls about this issue . I think the SportsNation poll about the issue is pretty revealing:
It is hardly clear-cut that fans agree with Thompson: 49 percent say the G.O.S. writers should give up their sources.
(Now, the poll itself is slightly biased towards a particular result, using loaded language like "give up.")
And, more interesting, in the question about whether the justice system should be allowed to punish journalists who don't reveal their sources:
53 percent of fans give journalists some sort of prison time and another 18 percent say it should be a financial penalty. That's 71 percent who say some sort of penalty should be delivered.
Only 29 percent say that the justice system shouldn't punish journalists who don't reveal their sources.
To sum up: Half the fans out there think the journalists should have to give up their sources, but even including the half that don't, an overwhelming majority of fans thinks journalists can and should be punished for their decision to withhold the information.That's the balance that makes this so interesting: Public's right to know versus the public's obvious interest in the sanctity of the rule of law.
Again, I sympathize with the G.O.S. authors and advocate some sort of federal "shield" law for investigative reporting.
But, to me, the most fascinating spin-off of all this is the disconnect between the sports media covering (and advocating) this story and the fans who the media argues it serves.Comment Question: What do you think of this whole issue? Where do you come down? What do you think of this disconnect? (And there are some great G.O.S.-related comments in the post below, so be sure to check those out, too. But let's get the comment string going off this post.)
There are a couple of items on here that may get individual-post blow-out treatment later this morning...
"Game of Shadows" authors jailed: Technically, they are breaking the law by not complying with the subpoena – thus, jail is technically appropriate, if lamentable.
There's nothing to be done for the "G.O.S." guys other than to hope their time in the pokey is more "Club Fed" than "Oz." (The actual sentence is currently pending appeal.)
But maybe their story can inspire reform to the law that creates a federal "shield" law, which will help investigative journalists do their jobs without fear of jail.
Now, all that said, my one problem with the martyrdom of the G.O.S. guys is that we're talking about breaking the Barry Bonds story. It ain't Abu Ghraib.
(This is a story where the media gate-keepers are hardly objective observers; I'd like to see any polling of what fans think of this. I'm sure it'll be more conservative than the media's p.o.v.)Could they have broken the story as effectively by using different sources of reporting, rather than using illegally obtained sealed grand-jury records?
But that's not really the point. They did, and the meaty issue is whether they should be paying the price of their freedom in exchange for ostensibly doing good through their reporting.
Joe Girardi: Out?! It's not exactly shocking news, but the
Girardi has arguably done the best job of managing in the last decade – and he's certainly a contender for best rookie manager of all time. (This is all if you believe that baseball managers impact their teams.)
So what next? For the Marlins, it's to find a manager who can take this talented young team to the Wild Card next season. That's what fans' expectations should be after this surprising year.
(Please don't throw "regression to the mean" -- one of my favorite sports-stat theories -- back at me. The Marlins were mis-judged from the start.)
For Girardi, all conventional wisdom points to his return to the North Side of Chicago to manage the Cubs. The only question is how quickly the Marlins drop Girardi – and how quickly the Cubs pick him up. (Though don't necessarily expect a Cubs resurgence in '07; they aren't nearly as talented as
By extension, that means that Dusty Baker will be looking for a new job as early as the season's end a week from now.
I remain baffled that the Marlins owners and executives are so foolish that they'd let Girardi go after this one amazingly overachieving season from the team.
Ryder Cup: Record-setting bet! Some fool has bet $465,000 on the
(I'm betting Phil Mickelson or Michael Jordan might have a little something to say about that.)"Free the Birds!" This protest by O's fans (nearly 1,000 walked out of Camden Yards last night) is not just the best MLB fan protest in recent memory, but they actually pulled it off (unlike the "Fire Isiah" protest march). They are right up there with the "Fire Millen" phenomenon. Well done, O's fans. The rest of us stand with you in solidarity.
Papi hits HR No. 51 and 52! That might make him the most prolific single-season slugger in Red Sox history, but it still doesn't make him AL MVP.
CJ for Heisman! If the Heisman was truly given to the most talented player in college football, Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson would be at the top of the list. (I made the same argument about Pitt WR Larry Fitzgerald a few years ago.) CJ's 2 TDs and career-best 165 yards last night in a national-TV whupping of UVA should put him right in the mix.
Hoffman: 1 Save from Smith! On top of that, right now I'd give Hoffman the NL Cy Young Award, considering his NL-leading 41 saves this season (at his age!) are a huge reason the Padres remain .5 games ahead of the Dodgers in the suddenly winner-take-all NL West.
Bobby Knight pisses on Oklahoma's party (so to speak): Knight correctly pointed out that in 2003, Oklahoma, its athletic department, its administrators and its fans had NO problem accepting a win based on faulty officiating (in this case, clock-timing).
Knight asked OU to strike the game from the record books – precisely the same thing OU asked of the Big 12 and
"Now I guess the duck is swimming in the other pond."
Coming later today:
*College Football Preview!
*NFL Week 3 Preview!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Let's clean up the afternoon junk:
You aren't a baseball fan if you're rooting for the Wild Card to go to the runner-up in the NL West. Let winner take all in that division and throw a bone to Ryan Howard and Co. in Philly.
I want the Falcons to run the option exclusively the entire game on Monday night in New Orleans. It's already going to be a wild night -- going option-nutty on national TV might spark a revolution. A good one.
I am SO ready for a full-strength (or, at least, full-GAME) Clinton Portis. More ready for his mid-week press conference persona.
I want LeBron James and Warren Buffett to get together and have babies that would rule the world.
Joe Paterno might not be able to control Ted Ginn, but if he was smart, he would take notes and figure out how to turn Derrick Williams into the NEXT Ted Ginn.
Someone who knows a lot more about baseball than I do needs to give me the argument why Rich Harden is the difference between the A's making the playoffs -- and winning the AL title.
(I have to say: In the Quickie, I picked the A's to meet the Mets in the World Series before the season started. If that came to pass, it would represent my greatest prediction ever. I could stop predicting. Could. But won't.)
Steve Smith practiced Thursday: See, it wasn't about the contract. Haters.
I was just reading the AP interview with George Steinbrenner from last week. I can't help but attach Larry David's "Seinfeld" voice to him for every quote. And it makes it SO much better. Buster Olney is working on the definitive biography of the Boss -- it better include Seinfeld stuff!
Last thing: Here's the link to that BlogPoll that I started participating in this week. Interesting results. I'm not as bullish on Florida as the rest (and I'm a FAN!), but more bullish on WVA. I'm also more bullish on Georgia, but way less into FSU. I'll have to give this a longer analysis later tonight. I need a few weeks to see how my own poll fluctuates.
Uh, one more: I just read that Georgia Tech is wearing throwback unis vs. UVA tonight on ESPN. I love when the college teams do that. We'll see how it comes across on TV.
By the way, I just saw an ad for that new "Longest Yard" meets "Dawson's Creek" movie with the Rock, "Gridiron Gang." Anyone see it? It was No. 1 last weekend. Any reviews?
Catch you in the a.m.
I just saw that Michael Lewis' new book "The Blind Side" will be excerpted in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. When the link is live, you should definitely give it a read.
Lewis, of course, crystallized and catapulted the "Moneyball" craze. (Actually, "craze" is wrong. Craze connotes "fad" or "trend." Not to use lame-ass marketing speak, but "Moneyball" represented an entire paradigm shift in sports. And, amazingly, under all the sports, the book was a parable for economics -- recognizing inefficiencies in a marketplace.)
So needless to say, Lewis knows how to drive the sports conversation.
The new book is a little different -- it's about an undiscovered offensive tackle -- but I'm betting it's going to be THE must-read sports book of the fall. (And it's a REALLY good book, too. It comes out the week after next.)
I have to add this disclosure, but please don't rip me for name-dropping. If anything, please rip me for pimping my reading series:
I'm going to be having a public sit-down with Lewis as an event in conjunction with my reading series' new relationship with ESPN Books. It'll be Wednesday, Nov. 8 in NYC, if you're near the area. More details later.
I'm sure I'll be linking to the book excerpt on Monday. But for now, I just wanted to put the book on your radar, because people will be talking about it. (You know, I definitely miss the "trend-spotting" aspect of the Quickie. I'm going to try to do more of that here.)
No, Tiger's wife Elin Nordegren didn't pose for porn pics. (If she did, don't you think the photos would have popped up online a LONG time ago?)
I haven't seen the precise photos in question, but if you do a Google Image search on "Elin Nordegren," you might see a sample of the fakery that has him so fired up. (NSFW: Not safe for work)
Tiger is not overreacting to lash out at the Irish newspaper that published the faked-up pics -- though a man with more years of marriage under his belt might have said "Sure, my wife is model-hot. Jealous much?"
But Tiger and I got married within a few days of each other (see this Quickie column for my comparison of me and TW's nuptials), and I can understand his defensiveness less than two years into his marriage.
The speculation is that a motivated Tiger is going to eviscerate the Euros in the Ryder Cup to avenge his wife's honor. It's a titillating storyline (and I can't wait for the MSM to dance around "porn" during the Ryder broadcast).
But unlike other tournaments where he's been wronged in some way, Tiger is playing on a team this time, and he can't play for everyone. He may win his own matches, but he can't win a Ryder Cup by himself.
(Though I've always wondered what would happen if the
Yankees back into clinching division: Yawn! That's 9 straight.
Given the competitiveness of the AL East, even with NY's payroll edge, this is pretty impressive. (Maybe even more impressive than the Braves?)
NL Wild Card: Tied up! The streaking Phillies have tied the Dodgers for the NL Wild Card, putting HUGE pressure on the NL West race, too.
Wow, the Phils have managed pull off the trick of making an otherwise unlikable team (and unlikable fan base) into the darlings of the National League.
Take the D-Train to
Conflicting signals on Manny: His MRI came back clean, but his buddy Julian Tavarez insists Manny won't play another game this season.
(Now that the Red Sox are out of playoff contention, why should he? Gotta start thinking about next year.)
Madden Jinx! Shaun Alexander will miss practice today with a sore left foot. He's still probable for Sunday, but the foreshadowing is there...
Are the Seahawks pumping extra crowd noise into Qwest? I doubt it: The otherwise restrained Seattlites are just that loud. More power to 'em.
Joey Porter's pit bulls killed a miniature horse that lives next door to his house. Anyone got the YouTube on that? No?
Steve Smith is outraged: Insists his hammy injury isn't a contract-negotiating ploy. Know who IS outraged? FFL owners who drafted him.
I have an idea for college football replay: Let the viewers vote from home via the phone, online and texting.
Just try it for one otherwise meaningless game, but I'll bet that it sets a new record for viewing.
(Hell, even if it doesn't actually "count," why doesn't ESPN or CBS offer a "You vote!" option during replay reviews?)
Pete Rose ain't an idiot: Undercutting the auction on the signed "apology" balls (where he won't see a dime), he's selling his own version via his Web site for $299.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Let me attempt to clean up the afternoon remainders:
Yankees can clinch division tonight: Wow, that was a lot easier than we thought it would be in April. Team to beat in the A.L. playoffs -- and it gives me no joy to write that.
Deaf sue Skins: I kind of assumed that NFL teams already had some sort of closed-caption system for the hearing impaired.
Fisher rips Volek: Billy felt he was thrown under the bus,'' Fisher said. ''Billy threw this organization under the bus, along with a number of his teammates.''
Don't accuse Tiger's wife of doing porn: Tiger is ticked at an Irish magazine that tried (and failed) to use satire to gently (or not-so-gently) mock Elin. Don't mess with the spouse.
Finally, I filed the final version of my BlogPoll college football Top 25 ballot this week, the biggest change was that I flip-flopped Florida to No. 5 and Michigan to No. 6 and dumped Alabama altogether, adding Cal into the tenuous 20-25 range.
(Why the flip of UF and UM? Mainly, it was because of the blog commenters who pointed out that I can't say Notre Dame is overrated and give Michigan TOO much credit for beating them, even at South Bend and even in the stomping-ass way they did. Thanks for your help. We'll revisit next week. As for Bama, a Tide fan wrote to tell me they didn't deserve it. Kudos.)
Update (7:28 p.m.): Just saw that "Once in a Lifetime" is on ESPN2 tonight at 9 p.m. ET. It's a documentary about the 1977 New York Cosmos. It's a great story. (Varsity Letters Reading Series participant David Hirshey covered the team for the NY Daily News and has a part in the movie.) It was at the Tribeca Film Festival, too. Definitely worth a watch (or TiVo).
1. Does it matter if the Tigers, specifically, make the playoffs as a division winner or Wild Card? I know it affects their ALDS pairing, but at this point, isn't just making the postseason huge for Detroit? Or did a season as successful as this one raise expectations beyond "just making the playoffs?"
(My take: Given the Tigers' recent history, to demand anything more than the postseason -- even with the success they've had this year -- is ridiculous.)
2. If Trevor Hoffman isn't the NL Cy Young, then who is?
(My take: No, seriously -- who else is struggling to come up with an answer here?)
3. If Justin Morneau isn't the AL MVP, then who is?
(My take: I could say who I think SHOULD win -- Frank Thomas -- but also who I think WILL win -- Derek Jeter.)
4. If you could have your pick of any backup NFL QB to be your *starting* QB right now, who would it be?
(My take: I said "right now" precisely so you really couldn't take Vince Young, unless you REALLY want VY starting in Week 3. I'd have to go with Matt Schaub.)
5. Who would you nominate as your most amazing over-40 pro athlete? Let's stick with players from the ESPN Era (so no Blandas!)
(My take: This one is easy -- Julio Franco. Roger Clemens is an easy answer, but come on: Franco is 48! Or older!)
6. Would Emmitt Smith winning "Dancing with the Stars" be more impressive than winning Super Bowl 28 MVP?
(My take: Winning DWTS would be more impressive. Consider that in SB28, Emmitt was the best player on the field, while in DWTS, he's the classic fish-out-of-water. "Impressive" is all about expectations.)
A-Rod? Really? This is the best we can do?
The most sensational (if manufactured) story of the day is the coverage of SI's cover story on A-Rod, which says more about the interesting (and increasingly rare) phenomenon of SI's ability to still drive the national conversation than it does about the shock value of the story, which seems both stale and unsurprising:
"A-Rod's teammates were unhappy with him during his slump!" Ooh! Stop the presses!
I'm going to have a longer take on this A-Rod story a little later this morning.
Update (11:37 a.m.): You know what? Nevermind on that "longer take." Does anyone really care about this non-story? Or, let's be honest: About A-Rod in general? He's worse than tolerated and even worse than mocked:He's mostly ignored.
(Except, obviously, by the media.)
So no special, stand-alone treatment on this story today. The sports world is going to have to come up with something a little more interesting.
Hoffman for NL Cy? Picking an NL Cy winner is like picking over the day-old bread at the store – it's all sort of edible, but nothing is THAT appealing.
Still, right now, my vote would go to Hoffman, who leads MLB in saves (40) AND is 3 saves away from setting the all-time saves record. The capper, of course, is that if the season ended today, his team would be in the playoffs.
Johnson for NL Rookie? Marlins rookie ace Josh Johnson is likely out for the rest of the season. His surprise Cy Young candidacy earlier this summer was fun, but a non-starter. But he's my NL Rookie of the Year. (Can it be a "team" award, to the Marlins?)
The little love-fest between Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams about who's to blame for the ChiSox likely failure to make the playoffs this season is nice, but doesn't change the situation.
Volek traded to Chargers: Remember when Billy Volek was a hot backup? Now he's just insurance, bounced by the Titans' NEW hot backup (Vince Young). Kerry Collins is enjoying a career as a seat-warmer.
Falcons sign Methuselah Andersen: Kicking triple-threat Michael Koenen didn't work out, so the Falcons signed K Morten Andersen, the oldest player since George Blanda. His career started so long ago, you'd have to be at least 35 to even barely remember his rookie year.
Knicks environment "hostile": And that's just the fans griping about Isiah. (Zing.) The EEOC found probable cause that a hostile work environment existed, allowing that lawsuit against the team (and Zeke) to proceed with more strength.
Peter Gammons is back tonight: We covered this yesterday, but it'll be nice to see. Here's his return ESPN.com column, a wonderful blend of the personal and professional.
Ryder Cup preview: Reclaiming jingoistic glory lost by the USA Hoops team.
Canes stop loving Coke? I think I spotted the first MSM story about who will replace Larry Coker at Miami. My pick: Ex-Canes assistant and current Rutgers coach Greg Schiano?
Oklahoma still complaining: Fans were on their side on Sunday and indulgent on Monday, but by yesterday, the sympathy had evaporated and fans now consider it whining.
And, of course, an "Emmittric Bugaloo" update: Emmitt Smith once again out-performed expectations on Dancing with the Stars last night. Here's how big of a star he has turned into on this show: They saved him for the final slot of the night. Dance, Emmitt, dance!
One more, added late: I am a longtime, obvious and transparent fan of Deadspin. Here's one of the more fascinating posts Will has done -- along with a very contentious comments section.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
OK, so we've got the NFL to look forward to next Sunday. College football's lineup next Saturday is a steep drop-off from last weekend. And MLB has very little energy right now, and I'm not sure why. Is it wrong to say that Emmitt's next performance on DWTS is the most dramatic sports TV event between now and Jags-Colts?
But this week is a lot more about OTHER, non-sports stuff on TV: The new shows, the season premieres of old shows. I appreciate how derivative "Studio 60" felt last night, but dammit, I can't help but like anything Aaron Sorkin does.As for other new shows this week, I'm intrigued to see if "Shark" can pull off what is a very good premise. And I've been a little scared of the new season of "Grey's Anatomy" ever since I heard Bob Griese say on a TV broadcast how much he was looking forward to the new season.
That's all entree to the Comment question below (What new show are you most interested in this week/season? They can be new-new shows or returning old shows.) Anyway, as for a look-ahead to the rest of the week in the Big Three:
NFL: The first of the "Bye" weeks; for
I'd rank the Top 5 games of intrigue this way:
1. Jags at Colts
2. Bears at Vikings
3. Bengals at Steelers
4. Giants at Seahawks
5. Falcons at Saints
CFB: Who has the job of coming up with the "S" alliteration to describe the type of Saturday we're going to have in college football? I want that job.
If last week was "Separation Saturday," then this week is "Sucks-To-Be Saturday." There are two games of mild consequence, and not even that:
AL Central/Wild Card:
Early week: DET at CWS, MIN at BOS
Weekend: DET at KC, SEA at CWS, MIN at BAL
Analysis: Looks like the defending champs are ready to fall away; they won't have a better shot at gaining ground than playing parallel to the Twins in
NL West/Wild Card:
Mid-week: PIT at LAD, ARI at SD, CHC at PHI
Weekend: PIT at SD, ARI at LAD,
Analysis: So the Pirates and D'backs control the fate of the NL West (and possibly the Wild Card); Philly better keep pace at home. But I'd trade the Phillies in the playoffs for Ryan Howard hitting 62-plus HR. In a second.
Comments question: What TV show from the new season are you most interested in watching? Let's divide this into two parts: (1) Returning shows and (2) new shows.-- D.S.
Here's someone who is: Peter Gammons, reportedly coming back to the air tomorrow.
So who is your favorite on-air sports-TV personality? Maybe "favorite" isn't the right question. That's like "valuable" in the MVP debate. Let's expand "favorite" to include the one you like best, the one you enjoy most, the one who's most informative or, yes, "valuable."
This could be an interesting comments string. I'm not sure I'm ready to weigh in with my pick yet. I just thought of the question, but haven't had time to really consider it yet.
(I almost need to break it down to categories like "host," "studio analyst," "play-by-play person" and "color commentator." But that's such a hedge! Nope: Single favorite. Any category.)
And, no, saying "Dan Shanoff on 'Around the Horn'" will not earn you any special favors. Though it will earn you my lifetime gratitude.
"Pete Rose never expected baseballs bearing his autograph and a printed apology for betting on baseball to be sold publicly, his business agent said Monday."This might have reached new levels of "he must think the rest of us are complete effing idiots."
The funny part is that for as much of an autograph-money whore Rose has been throughout his life, his agent says he didn't make a cent on these particular balls.
Again, apparently, yesterday's debate over who the best 2-0 team in the NFL is was premature:
After last night, the best 2-0 team in the NFL is obvious:
How do I defend this claim of the Jags as the NFL's best 2-0 team, particularly because the Jags' offense isn't nearly as good as some of the other 2-0 teams?
I'm going to lean on one key metric: Strength of schedule.
Of all the 2-0 teams, the Jags have BY FAR had the toughest pair of games: the Cowboys and the defending champ Steelers, arguably the toughest opening schedule of any 2-0 team.
Look at the schedule comps among 2-0 teams:
Falcons: 0-2 Panthers and 0-2 Bucs?
Saints: 0-2 Browns and 0-2 Packers?
Bears: 0-2 Packers and 0-2 Lions?
Ravens: 0-2 Bucs and 0-2 Raiders?
Bengals: 0-2 Chiefs and 0-2 Browns?
Chargers: 0-2 Raiders and 0-2 Titans?
Seahawks: 0-2 Lions and 1-1 Cardinals?
Colts: 0-2 Texans and 1-1 Giants?
Pats: 1-1 Bills and 1-1 Jets?
Be honest: This is dog-shit competition compared to the Jags' first two games.
The Jags' opponents have combined for as many wins as the Falcons', Saints', Bears', Ravens', Bengals', Chargers', Seahawks' and Colts' opponents all put together.
That's why most fans can't take the Chargers or Ravens or Bears seriously yet, even though they look among the Top 5 teams in the NFL.
(Here's what those teams – and the Jags – all have in common: Ridiculously awesome defense. But none of the other 3 proved it against competition of the quality that the Jags have so far.)
The NFL's best team after 2 weeks?
Check the schedule: The Jags.
Jags: NFL's Best 2-0 team? I was too premature yesterday asking who the best 2-0 team in the NFL is. After last night's shut-out, the answer is: The Jags. (The reasoning is coming later in the morning in its own separate post.)Meanwhile, you all know I love a good superlative. How's this one:
Doesn't exactly spark the imagination, does it? (But I said this about the Auburn-LSU game, too: At least it was close at the end. It beats a blowout where one team lights it up and the game is over in the 1st half. Right? Or am I wrong about that?)
Dodgers top Padres in best-of-season thriller: If East Coast Bias didn't exist, the Dodgers' 11-10 win over the Padres in 10 innings -- featuring 4 consecutive HR by LA in the 9th and a Nomar game-winning 2-run HR in the 10th -- would be the MLB Game of the Year.
Commenters: Why don't fans seem to care about the NL West? Is it the time zone? Regional bias? The fact that the NL seems destined to lose the World Series?
Mets clinch NL East: Wow, remember the last time that a team besides the Braves won
Commenters: What were YOU doing in 1990?
These Mets are a worthy, likeable champ, though. Tons of stars, lots of personality. A lineup that would fit right in in the AL. Now, you can gripe that they spent their way to a division title, but isn't that better than spending your way to NOT making the playoffs? (Ahem: Boston.)
Peter Gammons returns tomorrow. 'Nuff said. He and Ryan Howard will save baseball's finish from what feels like a complete eclipse by football since the month started.Clarett to "Oz" for 3.5 years: We covered this yesterday. (If you missed it, here's the link.) Is he the best "jail-time" (hard-time division) football player ever?
Pac-10 apologizes to OU: Suspends officials (including the inept replay official) and says "Our bad" to
(The Pac-10 commish should have said: "It ain't like you were going to the BCS title game anyway, so quit you're whining.")
The Pac-10 and BCS declined, however, to take the OU president up on his suggestion to strike the game's result from the record books, which instantly becomes the leading contender for Stupidest Idea of the Year.
(I'm not going to post it here, but buried within the comments...probably a dozen posts down the list, I tell one of my favorite stories about the lengths one goes to as a fan, in the context that even if the Okla-Ore calls were overturned, there's no GUARANTEE Okla would have won.)
USC pissed at Musberger: For apparently giving away an off-the-record "tell" by QB Booty. Well, why was the QB telling the broadcast team anything?
AP Top 25 Mistake: A voter from the Charlotte Observer turned in his ballot from the previous week, so in submitting a new one, BC gets the No. 20 spot to itself, breaking a tie with
Here's an idea: If the voter takes such little care with his ballot, maybe fans shouldn't trust the media with such a big job. (Want to have your say? Check out my BlogPoll rankings and make suggestions.)
Update: At least the guy publishes his ballot every week in the paper. The AP should require every poll participant to do that AND collect them all in one place online for fans to compare and analyze them.
Even more interesting are the casting choices: The lineup is kind of all-star. John Turturro as Billy Martin? (Awesome.) Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner? (Remember: He was a relatively YOUNG Boss.) And Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson. Sunjata is one of my favorite actors -- he plays "Franco" on "Rescue Me" and was the starring role in Broadway's "Take Me Out," the best play ever written about baseball.
Monday, September 18, 2006
*MNF: Who's your pick?
*Clarett: Best prison-football player ever?
*CFB Top 25: Is my ranking wrong?
*NFL Week 2: Who's the best 2-0 team?
*Monday A.M.: Ryan Longwell, NFL MVP?
Now everyone in the country gets to see what all the fuss is about.
Now that I finally have an NFL team to root for, they beat the Cowboys then host the defending champion Steelers at home on Monday Night.
"My" Jags remind me a lot of the Steelers from two years ago: Fantastic defense, with a QB who does just enough to win. (Not that this mix won the Steelers a Super Bowl that year... but it did the NEXT year.)
I keep projecting that the Steelers shouldn't play Ben Roethlisberger; the Jags D is going to hurt him: Not intentionally, mind you, but for a first game back after an appendectomy, he's going to get hit -- hard.
(Then again, who's more fragile: Big Ben, coming off an appendectomy, or Fred Taylor, say, in any given week?)Comment question: What's the biggest storyline of the game tonight? And what are the keys for both teams? (No, you don't have to approach the question seriously.)
Pick: Jags (obvs)
Week 2 Record (so far): 11-4
Best picks: SF over STL; MIN over CAR
I mean, Clarett HAS to be the best football player, right? I'll have to check my latest edition of "Cellblock D Fantasy Guide."
Update (2:31 p.m.): OK, before all of you take my head off, Mike Tyson probably is the best athlete ever to do hard time. But Clarett as the best football player?
Update (2:33 p.m.): A commenter just offered up Jamal Lewis. I'd say Lewis would trump Clarett. But Lewis didn't have to do 3.5 years. Not even close. But we're definitely starting to put together our All-Prison Team.
Update (2:50 p.m.): A Commenter just swooped in with "Clarett was just signed by the Bengals." And someone mentioned Rae Carruth. (Yeesh: That dude is in his own class.)
Quickie readers know that one of my biggest crusades is "sports populism": The empowerment of fans, to as much of an extent in every sport as possible.
To me, very little has represented the opposite of populism than the traditional college football polls, particularly the "human" polls: The AP (media) poll, the coaches poll, the Harris poll.
I have long argued that fans care more, watch more and know more than the so-called "experts."
(I have also, secretly and not-so-secretly, always pined to vote in a college football poll. Not because I know best, but so I could use fan input to make my rankings and try to disrupt the system.)
Anyway, there has been one interesting online-sports concept that I've been keeping my eye on: The "BlogPoll," a group of 60 or so enthusiastic college football bloggers who come together to create a rankings that fills in the gaps where the AP and coaches blow it:
Passion, transparency, accountability.
They post their rankings, but take input from their readers to shape the final product. They hear from other voters, who force them to be transparent about their biases and justify their picks. I think it's a really cool idea, and I'm excited to join in.
So here's the situation: I've got my Top 25, based on watching way too many games on Saturday – a lot of you were right there with me – but this is only a starting point. Take a look, and let me know in the Comments area if you think anything is egregiously wrong. Or even mildly something you'd change. (Don't forget to provide some "why.")
I'll go back and revisit the list, synthesizing all of your arguments and observations, and make changes where necessary before submitting my final ballot. (You can check out the BlogPoll here.)
(Don't worry: There won't be this long of an intro each week. I just wanted to introduce the concept.)
Shanoff's Top 25 Ballot
12. Notre Dame
13. VA Tech
22. Penn St
25. Florida St
Let me try to explain myself with a few notes:
I was unimpressed with OSU in beating Cincy, but not enough to have the guts to knock them from No. 1. Winning at UT was still the top road win of the year.
Not TOO far ahead of
As much as I like
I'm not sure why I have Georgia No. 7. Maybe because they're unbeaten, from the SEC and because I'm a sucker for true frosh QBs.
OK, I've probably underrated
Virginia Tech isn't disrespected at No. 13. Have you seen that schedule?
I overrate TCU at 14, yes perhaps,but they absolutely shut down the most sophisticated offense in the country.
20-25 is a crap-shoot: I really wanted to get
OK, those are some of my thoughts on how this was constructed. Now it's time for your reactions, analysis and picks in the Comments section. It WILL be taken VERY seriously.
We'll see how it goes. The whole thing is a great experiment for me. (And I agonized over my ballot way more than I thought I would... or would need to.)
Comments Question: Who are your biggest Studs (and Duds) from Week 2? (Also: Who is the best 2-0 team in the NFL? What does your Top 5 look like?)
After Week 2, I always like to look at the conventional wisdom after Week 1 to see how it's been modified, now that we've doubled our data points:
(Games involving 2-0 teams listed first. Using this first entry as a jump-off, which among the 2-0 teams is the best team in the NFL right now?)
Chargers 40, Titans 7
Bolts 1-0 CW: Rivers does enough
Bolts 2-0 CW: Best team in NFL?
Titans 0-1 CW: Better than this
Titans 0-2 CW: A. Peterson can help
Extra note: There's something to this "Who is the best team in the NFL?" question. My first instinct was
Here's a simplistic debate-settler: If the Bears offered Rex Grossman to the Chargers for Phil Rivers straight up, would you do it as Chargers GM? If so, the Bears are the better team right now. If not, the Chargers.
Vikings 16, Panthers 13
Vikings 1-0 CW: Is the ship really righted?
Vikings 2-0 CW: Childress for Coach of Year!
Panthers 0-1 CW: Week 1 loss a fluke
Panthers 0-2 CW: About that Super Bowl...
Extra note: Who knew that Ryan Longwell was the best QB in the stadium? (Hell, the Packers could use him right about now.)
Bears 34, Lions 7
Bears 1-0 CW: Defense is awesome
Bears 2-0 CW: Grossman is awesome
Lions 0-1 CW: Offense is sputtering
Lions 0-2 CW: Defense is weak, too
Extra note: If you're looking for Rex Grossman as a waiver pick-up in your fantasy league this morning, you're probably 18 hours too late.
Bengals 34, Browns 17
Bengals 1-0 CW: NFL's most balanced?
Bengals 2-0 CW: AFC North rules, Part 1
Browns 0-1 CW: Maybe next year
Browns 0-2 CW: Maybe, say, 2010
Colts 43, Texans 24
Colts 1-0 CW: Is Peyton still rusty?
Colts 2-0 CW: "400 yards, bitches!"
Texans 0-1 CW: Need more than Mario
Texans 0-2 CW: Need, say, 4 Marios
Extra note: Unless Reggie Bush was going to play both ways, the Texans' problems against the Colts wouldn't have been helped by having him.
Saints 34, Packers 27
Saints 1-0 CW: Feel-good story of '06!
Saints 2-0 CW: Say it: Playoff hopes!
Packers 0-1 CW: Brett Favre sucks
Packers 0-2 CW: Nah, the D sucks worse
Extra note: It's not that Brett Favre totally sucks, per se; it's that the season is a complete debacle... already. (And, if you watched Saturday, it ain't like Brady Quinn is gonna be the answer.)
Ravens 28, Raiders 6
Ravens 1-0 CW: Are they THAT good?
Ravens 2-0 CW: AFC North rules, Part 2
Raiders 0-1 CW: Gonna be a long year
Raiders 0-2 CW: Just fire Art Shell now
Extra note: No one saw the Ravens coming. Let's see how they do against teams with slightly better offenses than the impotent Raiders and Bucs. (And again, Brady Quinn ain't the answer.)
Falcons 14, Bucs 3
Falcons 1-0 CW: Vick still overrated QB
Falcons 2-0 CW: Yeah? So? (127 rush yds)
Bucs 0-1 CW: Wow, the offense is bad
Bucs 0-2 CW: No, it's REALLY bad...
Extra note: 306 rushing yards a Birds team record. Who needs a QB who can pass when you can grind it out like that?
Pats 24, Jets 17
Pats 1-0 CW: Lucky to beat the Bills
Pats 2-0 CW: Most shaky 2-0 team?
Jets 1-0 CW: Mangini is the Man
Jets 1-1 CW: But Beli is the Daddy
Extra note: If you think about this, based on pre-season expectations, the Jets totally overachieved with this result.
Seahawks 21, Cardinals 10
Hawks 1-0 CW: NFC jinx?
Hawks 2-0 CW: Stop yer whinin'.
Cards 1-0 CW: It's 'Zona's year!
Cards 1-1 CW: Playoffs still a stretch
Extra note: I was so so SO wrong when I picked the Cards to win this game. I don't know what I was thinking. Sorry 'bout that.
Dolphins 0-1 CW: Drew tough first game
Dolphins 0-2 CW: '06 "trendy" pick a dud
Bills 0-1 CW: Suck!
Bills 1-1 CW: Sack!
Extra note: Watch how fast that Dolphins-as-breakout-team bandwagon collapses with the dreaded 0-2 start.
Giants 30, Eagles 24
Giants 0-1 CW: Eli's no Peyton...
Giants 1-1 CW: ...But comeback was clutch
Eagles 1-0 CW: No T.O. = Big win
Eagles 0-1 CW: Yes O.T. = Tough loss
Extra note: Did Eli and Company really win this game? Or did the Eagles simply choke it away? I'd prefer the latter interpretation.
49ers 20, Rams 13
49ers 0-1 CW: On the right track?
49ers 1-1 CW: Future playoff tem?
Rams 1-0 CW: All points from kicker?
Rams 1-1 CW: Justified Wk 1 concern
Extra note: You know you're in trouble early in your rookie season as head coach when you make fans pine for Mike Martz.
Broncos 9, Chiefs 6
Broncos 0-1 CW: Offense looks bad in L
Broncos 1-1 CW: Same offense, but a W
Chiefs 0-1 CW: Is it really this bad?
Chiefs 0-2 CW: Actually, it's worse
Extra note: I can't even imagine how bad fans in
Cowboys 27, Redskins 10
Cowboys 0-1 CW: QB controversy?
Cowboys 1-1 CW: Who needs T.O.?
Skins 0-1 CW: Yes, O is that bad
Skins 0-2 CW: FireAlSaunders.com?
Extra note: Who's got that stat handy about a team's chances of making the NFL playoffs after an 0-2 start? Someone fax it to Gibbs.
Comments Question: Who are your biggest Studs (and Duds) from Week 2? (Also: Who is the best 2-0 team in the NFL? What does your Top 5 look like?)
NFL Star of the Day: Ryan Longwell.
The Vikings kicker passed for a TD and kicked the game-winning FG. Which makes him a more successful QB than former Packers teammate Brett Favre.
(Runner-up: Rex Grossman. Who saw THAT coming?)Complete NFL Week 2 coverage coming.
Click here for some first impressions.
T.O. out 2-4 weeks with broken finger:
It's like the "Gloryhog" saw his shadow in primetime, and now we'll have another month of T.O. coverage we don't want. It's worse than an extra month of winter.
Padres, Dodgers flip-flop in NL West:
It ain't sexy, but the Padres took over first place in the NL West by a half-game, putting the Dodgers in the Wild Card (Phillies 1 GB). They play one more today, so this could change daily.
Here's the upshot question on this: What does a division title even mean? Division champ, Wild Card... who cares? As long as you get into the playoffs, that's all that matters, right?