Saturday, December 23, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Night Before Xmas":
Welcome, Deadspin Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

No Iverson in Denver vs. Suns? Boo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right answer: 50/50 sounds fair!

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

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

Right answer: We have no secrets.

Honest answer: Well, I AM a lunatic.

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

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

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

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

Right answer: Not tonight? I understand.

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

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

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

Honest answer: No TV in bedroom = Deal-breaker

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

Right answer: Anything is always up for discussion.

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

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

Right answer: Hebrew school? Sure!

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

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

Right answer: Of course I like your friends!

Honest answer: I hate your fucking friends.

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

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

Honest answer: I hate your fucking parents.

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

Right answer: They don't visit enough!

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

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

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

Honest answer: Porn.

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

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

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

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

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

Honest answer: Eh, why not?

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

We now return to sports-related topics...

-- D.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yeah, I'm Late: AI Traded to Nuggets

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

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

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

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

Your comments/analysis on the trade?

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

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

-- D.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the NFC sucks:

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

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

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

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

More NFL analysis in the post below or click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Boller? Really: Kyle Boller?

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

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

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

"Too Little, Too Late" Award: Steelers.

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

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

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

Favre passes Marino in something? Yawn.

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

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

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

-- D.S.

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

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

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

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