Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturday A.M. Quickie:
Is Ronnie Brown the Next L.T.?

Random notes on a Saturday morning while killing hours between now and tomorrow's NFL games...

Cam Cameron hired to coach Dolphins: His success will hinge on this very simple concept: Can he turn Ronnie Brown into a poor man's LaDainian Tomlinson?

Meanwhile, USC assistant Steve Sarkisian pulled out of the Raiders' search, where he was apparently the front-runner. Why? Well, maybe it had to do with the Raiders sucking...

...But maybe he had his eye on another job, related to his current boss: If Carroll leaves USC for an NFL job (say, the Chargers next season), Sarkisian would be a front-runner to replace him at USC.

Jeff Samardzija spurns NFL for Cubs: Perhaps he read all the coverage about Ricky (oops: my bad) Andre Waters' concussion-driven suicide and decided that perhaps baseball is the safer career (and life) move.

NBA: (1) Suns win 12th straight (yawn)... (2) Sixers beat defending champ Heat in OT (doesn't Philly understand about tanking?) (3) NBA first-half MVP Gilbert Arenas leads Wiz past Magic.

(But also Arenas said on his blog that he'll score 50 again this season AND PREDICTS IT WILL HAPPEN AGAINST THE BLAZERS, then instructs TNT or ESPN to put the game on TV or risk missing it. Let's not underappreciate how insanely -- and awesomely -- unique that kind of statement is. How would you feel if you were a Blazers player?)

College Hoops Today: Brand-wise, it doesn't sound particularly glamorous, but Oklahoma State at Texas A&M is the biggest game of the weekend and not a bad proxy to assess both team's chances in March.

You Might Have Missed: NHL's All-Star Folly. Don't forget to check out the Slate piece about how the NHL manipulated the All-Star fan-voting to exclude Rory Fitzpatrick. This was brutal on two key levels.

First, they messed with the integrity of "letting the fans vote," which – for better or worse – is one of the greatest innovations in sports in the last century.

Second, they missed out on the p.r. bonanza of actually having Fitzpatrick play in the game. Not even Ovechkin or Crosby could have gotten casual fans to tune in to the game like the Rory story.

Today's Comments debate: Let's pick up a meme from other blogs (and this one) from earlier in the week: Given that both teams are insufferable, are you rooting for the Colts or the Pats to win?

-- D.S.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Last Night's Conspiracy of Dunces

It's probable you figured that the morning post today would be about the NFL conference title games. Seems reasonable enough, right? And I wasn't wrong that, otherwise, it was a suspiciously slow sports-news morning.

But if you've been over to Kissing Suzy Kolber or True Hoop this morning, you'll recognize that I must 'fess up that the wheels were turning a wee bit slower this morning after a night out with a motley collection of sports-blog types, where most of us could finally put faces to names and express admiration mockery for each other's work over cans of horribly low-grade beer.

But I must say that it was fascinating to meet up with the likes of Will Leitch and AJ Daulerio (Deadspin), Matt Ufford (WithLeather, Kissing Suzy Kolber), Henry Abbott (True Hoop), Jamie Mottram (AOL Fanhouse), Peter Schrager ( and the opaque genius behind the Wizznutzz. That link to KSK above has the group photo that I likened to a poor man's "Young Guns" movie poster. But only if I'm Lou Diamond Phillips.

-- D.S.

Friday 01/19 A.M. Quickie:
All NFL Conf. Champs, All Day

Is it mere coincidence that the last weekday before the NFL conference championship games is one of the slowest sports-news days we've seen in weeks (or even months)? Unlikely. It's because the same cabal that controls sports wants you to focus entirely on Sunday's games.

You know the key subplots already: In the AFC, it's Brady vs. Manning and, larger, Peyton vs. the Pats (and his own personal legacy of playoff chokery).

In the NFC, it's the conference's most marquee franchise (and it's No. 1 seed) versus the best story in the NFL of the year -- if not the decade (or, dare I say, ever). The playoffs' most maligned QB (Grossman) vs. the league's most valuable QB (Brees). Urlacher and the Bears D vs. the best offense in the NFL, showcasing - at the very least - the most intriguing rookie of the year.

But I'm much more interested in YOUR analysis of the game -- the biggest subplots and intrigues, the biggest X-factors, the biggest challenges and, of course, your picks. So let's light up the Comments section with your final NFL conference championship goodness.

My picks: Pats over Colts. Bears over Saints.
My rooting interest: Colts over Pats. Saints over Bears.

Simply put: You have no soul if you're not rooting for the Saints to advance (unless, of course, you're a Bears fan. And having just come from a trip to Chicago this week, they are fired up).

Oh: And if you have input on the day's other big storylines, put 'em in the Comments section too. Actually, to me, the most intriguing result from last night/news of the morning is that the No. 1 h.s. hoops team in the country (Oak Hill) lost to Chicago's Simeon and Derrick Rose (28 pts, 9 ast) last night on ESPN.

-- D.S.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday 01/18 A.M. Quickie:
Vick. Airport. Pot. Scandal!

Michael Vick: Up (in the Air) in Smoke? Rag on airport TSA workers all you want, but they appear to have caught Michael Vick in a situation that makes the Ron Mexico thing look like a non-story by comparison.

Water bottles with secret compartments? For pot?! That he had to throw away at the security check-in line like the common traveling dude? That he tipped off by being so reluctant to throw away? That TSA subsequently investigated precisely because he was being so weird about it? That revealed not just a hidden compartment that makes the Whizzinator look simplistic, but residue of something that likely was pot?

Forget the implications of all that. Right off the bat: How stupid is Mike Vick?!?! On so many many levels...

I suspect that Vick won't get the benefit of a mainstream media quasi-coverup on this one like he did with the Mexico thing. So, given that this will be the dominant story of the day both for the MSM and bloggers - easily eclipsing the lead-up to the Conf Champ games - what the hell do you make of all this? Besides the inherent hilarious details and opportunities to mock. Have at it!

Nothing else is going to be on the radar like the Vick story today, but here are a couple other things worth contemplating:

Marty Schottenheimer to keep job: Well, it's nice to have the clarity that we can declare that at least one team, the Chargers, will not win the Super Bowl next season.

UNC waxes Clemson: After that unbeaten start, the Tigers bandwagon is now officially empty.

NBA Trade: I've always felt that Al Harrington was overlooked and underrated (particularly considering that he was a prep-to-pro success story despite being picked at the end of the first round), so I'm glad he'll get a chance to flex in Don Nelson's offense. (Meanwhile, who wants to bet that this isn't Mike Dunleavy's final stop this season?)

Webber's Pistons debut: 2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 17 minutes. Meh. (Oh, and the Pistons lost to the Jazz. So double-meh.)

Colt Brennan returning to Hawaii: Given that he set all sorts of QB passing records last season, what might he do in '07? Meanwhile, as a Heisman Top 5 finisher, put him in the Top 3 for next season: (1) Darren McFadden, (2) Brian Brohm, (3) Colt Brennan. Could he lead Hawaii to a crash-the-BCS season?

Bonds thinks McGwire, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame: Just when you thought McGwire's HOF chances couldn't get any worse...

-- D.S.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wednesday 01/17 A.M. Quickie:
Boggan, Fins Fun and Arbitration

Update (2:10 p.m.): Early favorite for least-popular Super Bowl ad? How about Nationwide, which is going to use... Kevin Federline. That would have been minimally clever, oh... a year ago never. (But their insidious "K-Fed" strategy worked: We're talking about them, aren't we?)

In case you missed it, last night they played the best college hoops game of the year
, featuring the most talented player in the country (and another in the Top 5). Except you'd be hard-pressed to figure out which one was which, based on the insane individual output:

Mario Boggan: 37 points, 20 rebounds.
Kevin Durant: 37 points, 12 rebounds.

Durant might be the lock Top 2 NBA Draft pick in 2007, but Boggan won the night – and the game – with a game-winning 3 just before the final (-final-final) buzzer to lead Oklahoma State over Texas in 3OT.

So if Durant, Boggan and Wisco's Alando Tucker are first-team All-America locks, who are the other two? Hansbrough? Oden? Horford? Whew, say this: Great year for power players in college hoops.

Pats or Colts: Who would you rather see lose more? I'm picking up this best-of-conference-championship week meme via Kissing Suzy Kolber (and the impressive 314 comments about it at Deadspin). Weigh in using the comments. It's truly an epic debate. Thanks, KSK! (And their premise is right: Just root for the NFC winner.)

Shaq back this Thursday? I go back to my standard: Why rush back? It's not like the Heat are in danger of missing the playoffs. Why not rest Shaq until after the All-Star Break, at the very least?

Dolphins coaching search: Shula? Shut up. The only thing more depressing for Dolphins fans than losing Nick Saban to Alabama would be to hire the guy who Saban replaced: Mike Shula. Cam Cameron and Dom Capers are also "suddenly" "new" finalists, the type of confusion that should worry Fins fans.

London to host regular-season NFL game. More bad news for Dolphins fans: The Dolphins are believed to be willing to give up a home game to play this game in London. Given only 8 home games per year, there's no WAY that's going to sit well with Dolphins fans. Of course, given the fact that there's no head coach, maybe it's good that they're getting out of town an extra week.

Are the Raiders going to hire Chargers WR coach James Lofton? (Meanwhile, Dennis Green doesn't want the job. Feh: Who needs him?)

So much for my pick of Air Force as this season's Cinderella team to watch during March Madness. They lost to Utah last night. And Utah lost to Northwestern by 30 last month. (Yes: 30.) I cannot shake that particular transitive property. Let me do my best Stephen Colbert: "Air Force? You're on notice."

(More CBB: UConn was overrated, but that was still a solid win by Pitt last night to keep itself in the conversation about legit contenders. But, sorry, Unsilent Majority: I'll never be able to pick Pitt to do very much damage in the NCAA Tournament. Tell me why this year is different than all the others.)

MLB Arbitration Time! I'm ruling for the players in a big way this year. Check out the marquee names:

Carlos Zambrano: He made $6.65M last year, which seems like a ludicrous bargain. He wants $15.5M, and the Cubs want to pay him $11M. (1) Given the market for top pitchers right now and (2) considering he might very well be the top pitcher in the NL and (3) considering how much the Cubs have spent on far less talented contributors, the Cubs should give it to him without blinking an eye. Anything else and they risk alienating their most valuable player.

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau: Let me ask you this: If Mauer and Morneau were on the free-agent market together as a package, how much would they command, given the seasons they are coming off of and their promise for the future? Maybe $20 million combined? It makes their combined asking price of $9.5 million ($4.5M for Mauer, $5M for Morneau) seem reasonable. Particularly when you consider what they are making now: Mauer is making $400,000; Morneau is making $385,000. The Twins got an obscene amount of value from those two players last season; it's time to pay them a lot closer to their true value.

Miguel Cabrera: Hmm... wonder how THAT will turn out? He's only one of the Top 3 talents in baseball, and he's making the MLB equivalent of minimum wage.

Is it possible that a minor-league team with a progressive attitude about marketing could make it "Sammy Sosa Night" – every night?

QB Mustain bolts Arkansas: As soon as I saw that Arkansas' prep-to-D1 offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn was leaving after only one year to go be the offensive coordinator at Tulsa, I had a feeling that there would be another domino. Here it is: Prized QB Mitch Mustain is transferring, too.

Here's my next feeling: Despite Mustain's status as perhaps the top NFL QB prospect of the Class of 2010, he'll follow Malzahn to Tulsa, where they'll rack up stats and points together with Malzahn's spread O. The success of the MAC QBs in the NFL means that the pro scouts will find him and track him, regardless of the name on the front of his jersey. It's the name on the back that will matter.

(Meanwhile, for Malzahn, what kind of move is THAT? He must have hated working for Houston Nutt and hated having to rely on do-everything RB Darren McFadden, rather than his self-proclaimed genius spread offense. It also exposes Arkansas' hiring of Malzahn as little more than incentive for Mustain to sign there.)

Minnesota hires Broncos assistant Brewster: I don't know how well new Golden Gophers football coach Tim Brewster can do Xs and Os, but apparently the guy is a phenomenal recruiter, making the Big Ten that much more competitive, given that Ron Zook has turned Illinois into the Big Ten's biggest pound-for-pound recruiting powerhouse. (Yes, even over Ohio State and Michigan. Zook can't coach, but the guy can recruit like no one else in college football.)

Why is it so bad that the head of Real Madrid wants to rip David Beckham as a Hollywood wannabe? He is.

Happy 65th Birthday, Muhammad Ali. Was he the greatest American athlete of all time? "Greatest" might be the wrong superlative. "Most important?" "Most influential?" "Most must-see?" Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan are all in the argument.

Rest in peace, Benny Parsons.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tuesday 01/16 A.M. Quickie:
Did the Pats Win a Golden Globe?

So, has Marty Schottenheimer been fired yet?

Notes on a Pats-"Class" Scandal: Maybe it's not that the Pats were classy before and surprisingly regressed Sunday; maybe they were never classy and hid it surprisingly well.

Shaq didn't play in the Heat's loss to Kobe and the Lakers. Again: Don't bother evaluating the Heat until April when it counts.

I appreciate Webber's interest in a Detroit homecoming, but his return to Michigan should remind everyone of his iffy legacy in Ann Arbor.

Arenas: 51. 'Nuff said. (Have you bought your limited-edition "SWAG" T-shirts from Free Darko yet? Here's the link.)

Meanwhile, while I presume the gang at Free Darko was busy re-playing the Arenas game tape on TiVo, they deliver a must-read weigh-in on the ongoing "Wages of Wins" debate.

Giants promote Reese to GM: I wonder if they asked him in his interview if he would have sold the farm to draft Eli Manning over Philip Rivers.

Speaking of Drafty, Peterson and Ginn are both first-round locks, but another lock is Louisville's Brian Brohm as a Heisman front-runner.

Will Sammy Sosa make his MLB return with... the Rangers? The day that happens is the day that George W. Bush returns to the team as owner.

Dontrelle Willis: Signs 1Y/$6.45M deal with the Marlins, avoiding arb. That remains so far below his market value that I can still see him in a Mets uniform by the end of next season.

Beckham playing for MLS as soon as this spring? Let me offer a preview of the general level of national sports fan interest: "Yawn!"

Golden Globes: Hmm, maybe it's time that I finally saw "Babel." Here's the reality of new parenthood: I had seen none of the movies nominated for awards, but I was expert on the TV categories.

See yesterday's PM Quickie (below) for more.

-- D.S.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday P.M. Quickie: For Gilbert? Anything.

(1) Arenas' 51: Gilbert's recent shooting slump had me worried for a second. Then he dropped 51 on the Jazz today, including a game-winning 3 at the buzzer. All remains right in the world.

(2) Adrian Peterson turning pro: Of course he's leaving early. He's a Top 10 talent. He should have been able to leave after his monster freshman season, but that's another argument.

(3) Ted Ginn Jr. turning pro, too: Is he the offensive version of Devin Hester? (Bigger: Did his dad really tell him to stay out of the BCS title game after his game-opening injury?)

(4) Webber to the Pistons: What does it say about C-Webb's career of reluctant success that he'll likely thrive in the role as Detroit's "5th option?"

(5) New CBB Top 25: Gators back to No. 1. Doesn't it make you sick? (I didn't comment on the UNC loss from the weekend. (a) They were due. (b) How 'bout them Hokies?)

(6) The biggest media-manufactured non-story of the weekend? The argument about the Pats' so-called "classlessness" in the way they celebrated their win over the Chargers. Zzz...

Monday 01/15 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Gets Best-Case Scenario

The NFL couldn't have asked for a better or more compelling pair of conference championship games. In fact, I can't remember a better PAIR of games than the ones coming next week:

In the NFC, you have best turnaround story in the NFL of the year (and possibly ever) facing the best team in the conference this season.

Chicago has home-field advantage, the conference's best defensive player and its most controversial QB situation, and arguably the conference's most marquee franchise. The Saints have the conference's best offensive player and its top two rookies, along with the sympathy of every non-committed fan. Going on the road for the chance to make the Super Bowl -- after last season?! -- only reminds everyone of their permanent road-team status from a year ago.

Rooting interest analysis: Who ISN'T rooting for the Saints? (Cripes: To make the freaking SUPER BOWL? You'd have to be heartless... or a Bears fan.)

In the AFC, you simply have the NFL's greatest rivalry of the decade – even better because the game is at Indy, giving the Colts that extra level of advantage that will make any loss sting that much more.

It's very simple and so so so compelling: Either the Colts finally overcome their nemesis and finally make the Super Bowl or the Colts are bested again, adding to their epic inability to win the AFC, let alone an NFL championship.

Rooting interest analysis: Fans without a rooting interest in this game are in a bind: How can you not be rooting to see the Colts lose... again? But how can you actually want to see the Pats win... again? You could say that either result would provide you with some measure of schadenfreude, but both results also deliver quite a bit of pain, too. We'll put this up for debate over the course of the week.

Tom Brady, Pats kicker do it again: When Tom Brady and the Pats offense got the ball late in the 4th quarter down 8 points after that ridiculous McCree INT-fumble on what should have been a game-ending gaffe by Brady, who DIDN'T think he'd rally them for the TD to bring them within 6, then pull off the Gators-style trickery on the conversion to tie it? And then who DIDN'T think, if given the chance, Brady would plow down the field and set up the game-winning field goal? He's so damn predictable. So damn damn damn predictable.

Meanwhile, The Genius was right: Who needs Adam Vinatieri? Obviously, Stephen Gostkowski hasn't kicked a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl (uh, a few times), but yesterday's game-winner on the road with a minute to go wasn't a bad start.

Marty Schottenheimer is the biggest loser in the history of NFL coaching. It's no longer a mockery; he has no business coaching a contender. Yesterday's loss is his worst yet.

I'd sooner fire him than have a coach who so consistently makes the playoffs, yet so consistently fails to win in the playoffs.

This year was the worst: He had the best and hottest team in the NFL. Home-field advantage. The league MVP. The best defensive player. An 8-point lead in the fourth quarter. And he choked... yet again.

If the Chargers have any aspirations of making the Super Bowl while their nucleus of stars is still intact, they need to fire Marty and find a coach who actually knows how to win in the playoffs.

As for the Bears win over the defending NFC champs? All I can say is that it affirms the argument that the team's MVP this season is/was... kicker Robbie Gould. That was a hell of a boot. I'll actually be in Chicago tomorrow through Thursday; I'll try to keep up the posting through the hysteria all around me.

NFL OT rule is the worst: People complain endlessly about the way that college football determines its champion.

But as wacked as that system is, for sheer ridiculousness, nothing tops the NFL's system of awarding its first (and often only) playoff possession based on... a coin flip.

In all of sports, there is no worse system that impacts a championship than the NFL's overtime rule for awarding possession, particularly when it happens in the playoffs.

I say this every year: The system won't change until the Super Bowl winner is decided by a coin flip. Only then, when the league is humiliated so universally, will the NFL go to a "fair-ups" OT system.

Cards hire Steelers' Whisenhunt: I'm not quite sure why the Steelers passed on him (or left him hanging for so many years as the presumptive in-house successor if/when Cowher left), but the Cards took advantage. Enjoy Russ Grimm, Steelers fans.

Don't forget to check out my eulogy for the cancelled "Quite Frankly" right below.

-- D.S.


"Quite Frankly" CANCELLED: You may have missed it (oh, and in fact, I'm sure you did), but ESPN cancelled "Quite Frankly" on Friday night, making my "What's Hot, What's Not" List for 2007 UNCANNILY ACCURATE.

When Mark Shapiro originally signed Stephen A. Smith (FOR FOUR YEARS) to do a nightly talk show, the model Shapiro was looking for was BILL O'REILLY MEETS OPRAH. But Stephen A. was NEVER the right fit for his own show, and CERTAINLY not an hour; he is an NBA analyst.

(And, YIKES: WHAT DOES IT SAY that when ESPN went looking for a non-athlete analyst to sit on their marquee NBA anchor coverage, they chose MICHAEL WILBON over SAS?)

Stephen A. wasn't "love to hate," like Cosell; he was "LOVE TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL," which -- in a ratings-driven world -- was DEATH. His MOST WIDELY WATCHED moment was a piece of homemade video from the NBA Draft aired on Deadspin where he SHOWED A DISTINCT TASTE FOR CHEESE DOODLES.

You won't have Stephen A. TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE. (But what will happen to my ALL-CAPS typing skills?) The word "Frankly," is now returned to you fans, where it rightfully belongs. But a permanent taint on using it remains. THAT might be SAS' BIGGEST legacy.

-- D.S.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

NFL Playoff Mania!
Saints, Colts Still Marching

You can't be a (a) football fan, (b) American or (c) human and NOT be rooting for the Saints right now. One win from the Super Bowl, the Saints aren't simply the story of the year in the NFL, but you have to seriously consider where this story ranks among all-time NFL stories. I have a soft spot for the Bears, but I go back to my slogan from early September 2005: "We're all Saints fans."

Meanwhile, the Colts won too. I'm rooting for the Chargers today, but you'd have to be crazy not to want to see Pats at Colts for the AFC title.

Anyway: What was your take on last night's games? Today's games? The implications for next week? Put your analysis in the comments section and get the debate going!

- D.S. (Still filing via Blackberry in Orlando. No I didn't make the trek to Gainesville yesterday for the Gators victory party at The Swamp.)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry