Saturday, February 10, 2007

Saturday 02/10 A.M. Quickie:
Obama-Arenas '08! LeBron vs. Wade! More!

How is Barack Obama like Gilbert Arenas? The answer came yesterday. Click here (or scroll down) to read the post that everyone is talking about.

LeBron's Cavs top Wade's Heat
: Yeah, but Dwyane still holds the edge in rings.

Dwight Howard had the 2nd sickest finish to an NBA game this year. (The first was David Lee's tip-in with 0.1 left on the clock.)

Carmelo named an All-Star: I imagine that David Stern's policy was less "forgive and forget" than "It will look really bad for me if I don't do this."

Josh Howard an All-Star, too: Yet another exhibit that the draft-rankings process is an inexact science.

Celtics fans must have breathed a sigh of relief that the team could bring back Paul Pierce, yet still continue on its losing march to Oden/Durant.

Wisco gives CFB coach Bret Bielema a 5-year extension: He earned it solely off of his brilliant use-the-new-clock-rules-to-run-out-the-clock kicking strategy.

NASCAR Toyota Watch: Making its debut in the Bud Shootout.

Pro Bowl preview? Nah... zzz...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Is Barack Obama Politics' Gibert Arenas?
(Or Perhaps Arenas Is the NBA's Obama?)

Barack Obama will announce his candidacy for the Presidency in '08 tomorrow. I'm a huge politics junkie. I'm a huge Obama fan. This is big news.

I have formulated a theory, which is obviously imperfect, but nonetheless might be found interesting by those of you who enjoy following politics, as well as sports.

Barack Obama is the Gilbert Arenas of Presidential contenders.

Consider the similarities:

*Both are almost almost universally loved and respected. For Obama, this manifests itself most recently in his No. 1 book sales; for Arenas, this manifested itself most recently in his All-Star voting surge into "starter" status.

*Both deliver an aura of accessibility. For example, Obama announced his first Presidential-race news directly to the voters on his Web site, YouTube-style. Arenas regularly makes and breaks news directly to fans on his blog.

(In a related similarity, Obama's move seemingly inspired his rivals to do something similar with their online-video announcements. Arenas' impromptu 3-point contest last week against teammate DeShawn Stevenson -- for $20,000 and captured on video and published on YouTube by a Wizards blogger -- was such an instant Internet sensation that it inspired at least one contrived copycat product by the Lakers.)

*Both seem to always say/do the things that make fans nod their head and shout: "Yes! I'm with you!" For Obama, this started with his Democratic National Convention speech in 2004 and has continued since, as he tours the country speaking to crowds. For Arenas, this includes so many things I can't recount them all. (I simply refer to Gilbert's Wikipedia entry.)

*Both are grassroots, blogosphere sensations. No explanation necessary.

*The "Black President" Factor: Obama would like to become the first black president. Arenas actually calls himself "The Black President." (I'm not kidding: It's the name of Gilbert's MySpace page.)

*And, yet, both are relatively untested at the "national" level. For Obama, that's a Presidential race; for Arenas, that's the NBA Playoffs/Finals. Their critics use this against them.

*And even though both are insanely popular, both are still not considered the frontrunner in their respective races. For Obama, that's winning the Democratic nomination; for Arenas, that's winning League MVP.

"Agent Zero" and Agent "O": I'm happy to be up-front about it: Obama is my favorite politician, and Arenas is my favorite athlete. Is it too much to ask for a "Obama/Arenas" Presidential ticket in '08? (Cripes, I'm kidding. Uh, wait: Can we get a Mothering Hut T-shirt of that?)

You don't have to agree with me in my support of either (or both) to recognize the fascinating similarities in their situations right now. (My only concern is that I have it flip-flopped: Maybe it should be "Arenas is the Obama of the NBA." Next stop: Around the Horn! Meet the Press!

-- D.S.

Here's a coincidence: The Wall Street Journal just sent me an email with a URL to a free version of their article today on Gilbert. Needless to say, I imagine the WSJ isn't backing Obama.

Friday 02/09 A.M. Quickie:
USC Scandal? Butler Sweet 16? Gil 3-pt Champ?

It's almost too perfect: USC's "next Reggie Bush" is already getting the school in trouble... and the original Reggie Bush is allegedly involved.

Did super-stud RB Joe McKnight have a conversation with Reggie Bush during his recruitment? (Look: You can argue that it's a seemingly innocuous offense, but it's still against the rules.)

More importantly: Did Pete Carroll facilitate it? Here's the story.

(Update: I forgot to add that as soon as the story broke, McKnight's coach "clarified" what might -- or might not -- have happened. Let's take that with the ton of salt it deserves. Did McKnight misspeak? Maybe. But it also might be that his coach heard from "influential" USC boosters.)

USC may have had the No. 2 recruiting class (No. 1, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc.), but I have to offer the newest members of Trojan Nation a hearty welcome:

Enjoy what appears to be your inevitable trip to NCAA Sanctionland.

Cowboys hire Wade Phillips: I'm officially dubbing him "The Seat-Warmer," because he's so obviously there to place-hold for Jerry Jones' favorite, Jason Garrett.

Amaechi comes out, Day 2: It's been great to see the mature reaction from (most of) the media and (most of) the league and (most of) the fans. Want a great exception: Check out this post from MJD (via TrueHoop via Can't Stop the Bleeding).

NBA Last Night: Chris Webber (18 points, 11 rebounds) is really enjoying his new life with the Pistons, isn't he? (Detroit beat the Lakers for their 5th straight win, holding Kobe to 5/13 FG shooting and 8 turnovers.)

NBA This Weekend: Will the Knicks match their entire 2005-06 season win total this weekend? For that alone, you either have to (a) credit Isiah or (b) agree with me that Larry Brown and his "Right Way" is overrated.

NBA All-Star Game: While the dunk contest continues to fade, the 3-point contest continues to draw star power. This year's field includes Dirk, Jason Terry, Jason Kapono, Mike Miller and Damon Jones. Oh, and the player I'm predicting will win it all: Gilbert Arenas. It's just his year. (Yes, but will he bet his final-round opponent $20K, just to make it interesting?)

College Hoops: No. 10 Butler rolls. Any team that can make 20 3s in a game is a legit mid-major to do damage in the NCAA Tournament, right?

Here's the question: How would you assess Butler's chances of living up to its lofty ranking in the NCAA Tournament? Obviously, Butler's No. 10 poll ranking won't actually correlate to a 3-seed, but let's run with it:

Do you think that Butler will be a Sweet 16 team, or will bigger, faster teams than they face in the Horizon League that Butler would face in the NCAA Tournament leave them open for an early-round upset?

Meanwhile, speaking of hoops teams from the state of Indiana, how wild was the ending to that DePaul upset of No. 21 Notre Dame?

CBB This Weekend: I'd put three games on your radar.

(1) Florida at Kentucky in primetime for a rare national-TV chance to see for yourself whether the Gators are worthy of being the national-title favorite.

(2) UCLA at West Virginia. If I was a gambling person, I'd call this an Upset Special. I'm not a gambling person, and I'll still call it the Upset Special.

(3) Marquette at Georgetown: Two teams that could make a run to the Elite Eight, if not the Final Four. Here's a chance to evaluate them up close.

Women's CBB: No. 1 Duke beats No. 2 UNC. After yesterday's argument over the overratedness of the UNC-Duke men's college hoops rivalry, it's worth pointing out that the game between the rival women's teams last night was a lot more interesting, given that it was 1-vs-2.

In the grand scheme of things, it remains overrated, because it's not like the loss either (a) KO'ed one of the teams from national-title consideration or (b) really indicates which team would win a rematch in the NCAA Tournament.

(I have been schooled in the comments for minimizing a much more important game in the scheme of the regular season: Two unbeatens, best offense vs. awesome defense, etc.)

MLB: Does anyone really care if Bud Selig does or does not follow Barry Bonds around as he approaches/passes Hank Aaron's career HR record?

Meanwhile: How about Cincy, spending more like the Red Sox than the Reds. Another day, another pricey contract to one of their anchor pitchers: Bronson Arroyo gets 2Y/$25M.

Tagliabue Hall of Fame debate, cont'd: I'm loving the details leaking out about how Paul Tagliabue didn't make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but for me it mostly just reinforces that the cloak of secrecy behind the voting proceedings should be lifted.

The voters involved are managing a public trust. It isn't their fiefdom to be ruled like some sort of secret oligarchy. I think their debate should be Web cast live or – at the least – certainly recorded with audio equipment for fans to listen to and then transcribed into a public archive.

All the voters are way too happy to turn (usually sincere) fan emails into (usually condescending) column fodder. And they're way too quick to pull out the old "our discussions are secret!" b.s.

A little transparency of the process would, as usual, go a long way. I won't hold my breath.

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What's In a Name:
What's Your Bet?

I'm as entertained by the Scott Wiese story as everyone else: He was the Bears fan who was so convinced that his team would win the Super Bowl that he vowed he would legally change his name to "Peyton Manning" if the Bears lost. Now he's a national sensation. A performance artist couldn't have pulled it off any more effectively.

Here's the question/topic for discussion: I'm not going to ask if there's an athlete you'd change your entire legal name for, but do you have a favorite athlete who you would consider naming your kid after? (For the sake of argument, let's say your partner defers to your decision.) Or, more interestingly, have you done that for real?

This came up briefly during the old Morning Quickie chats when my wife was pregnant, because the top contender for what the kid's name would be was "Noah," after Joakim. (No, not "Joakim" itself. Thought that WOULD be kind of badass. Joakim Shanoff? Um... maybe not.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 02/08 A.M. Quickie:
Why UNC-Duke Doesn't Really Matter
(Plus: Signing Day, Amaechi and More)

UNC beats Duke at Duke (and it doesn't matter one way or the other): I went into last night's UNC-Duke game thinking that, for whatever reason, this year's game didn't have the juice of previous years.

Maybe it was because UNC isn't as dominant in the ACC this season as its ranking might suggest. And certainly because Duke isn't particularly great this year.

The game turned out to be mildly interesting, after all: Despite home-court advantage and an early lead, Duke's inferior talent finally caught up with them and UNC pulled off the win.

I'm not sure it legitimizes UNC as much as people might be saying this morning, because Duke is now merely a .500 ACC team. Winning at Cameron would seem to be big, but if Florida State can do it this season, how hard could it be?

I know Duke is young, but there are a LOT of young teams in college basketball, and they're not this underachieving. That's classic Coach K: Under-coaching some of the nation's best talent. (But how about my boy, Jon Scheyer? Keep gunning, kid!)

Speaking of young, I think UNC is a year away -- if everyone sticks around, which they won't -- from being a real national title contender. Right now, I don't think UNC could beat Florida, UCLA or Wisconsin, among others, in a Final Four game. We'll see how they look in a month: I'm obviously willing to revise.

By the way, I walked away without changing my overall impression: This year, Duke-UNC just isn't that special. And I suspect that the rivalry has always been overrated: Unless they are meeting in the NCAA Tournament, college basketball's playoff system has always mitigated rivalries.

I'm not disputing that it's a huge, wonderful rivalry. I'm just saying that they never truly play for ultimate stakes. (No, the ACC regular-season and/or conference-tournament title don't count, when both teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament.)

It's not like either UNC or Duke isn't making the NCAA Tournament field with a loss to the other. Compare that to, say, Ohio State and Michigan in football. (Or any top-tier CFB rivalry game, where a loss can knock your team out of the conference-title or national-title picture.)

College basketball's playoff system is the best in sports (there is nothing even close), but except for helping to determine who makes the tournament field, it diminishes the regular season. Including UNC-Duke, which is supposed to be the best rivalry in the sport.

National Signing Day: Florida came out No. 1 in the rankings, thanks to a last-second commitment from one of the top WRs in the country, giving the Gators the recruiting national championship.

No, wait: USC came out No. 1 in the rankings.

Hold on: Which rankings to believe? Let's use CSTV's Tom Lemming as the tie-breaker: He has Florida at No. 1 over USC.

Ah: It doesn't really matter anyway. The proof is in the number of national titles five years from now.

Meanwhile, Alabama closed fast, considering Nick Saban started just a few weeks ago. Illinois overachieved, as expected. And Butch Davis' first class at UNC was the big breakthrough, which should be a much bigger deal than UNC beating Duke in a virtually meaningless college hoops game. (Is it too early to start talking about spring practice?)

College Hoops Parity Watch: Oklahoma beat what-are-we-supposed-to-believe Oklahoma State. UCLA beat not-ready-for-prime-time USC.

John Amaechi Comes Out: Yes, it's a big deal, if only because he's the first NBA player to ever do it -- the NBA's hyper-heterosexual player culture (which, mind-bogglingly, has both homophobic AND racist undercurrents) makes the NFL's uber-manliness culture seem forgiving.

With the book release still a week away, the story is going to get burnt out, but that shouldn't diminish its overall impact. Over/under on the number of awkward blog references to "Not that there's anything wrong with that": 500.

UPDATE: You must read this post by TrueHoop's Henry Abbott. What he said. (Oh, and here's a smart post about it from FreeDarko. Sorry for the delay. I'm catching up on my blog-reading and RSS-feeding.)

More NBA: The Celtics' losing streak reaches 16, and you have to legitimately question if they're even trying anymore or if they are simply (and intentionally) playing for Lottery position. (Guess what: Neither Oden nor Durant will make this team THAT much better.)

Meanwhile, Chris Bosh scored 41 in a Raptors win over the Magic. And the Spurs clobbered the Wizards – let's all agree that Antawn Jamison was obviously pretty damn valuable.

Cowboys interview Jim Caldwell: But it looks like Wade Phillips is a new front-runner (via ProFootballTalk) because ol' Norv doesn't want heir apparent Jason Garrett to be his offensive coordinator.

Now, I'm quite sure that Garrett is as unready to be an offensive coordinator as he is to be a full-on head coach, but you don't actually tell that to Jerry Jones -- who wants Garrett to coach his team... if not now, then eventually.

UPDATE: Looks like Wade Phillips WILL be the new coach. I'll put the over-under on 2 seasons. I have no doubt he is a seat-warmer for Jason Garrett.

Soccer: USA beats Mexico. The US is 7-0-1 against Mexico since 2000 when playing them in the U.S., even though the "home" crowds in those games is decidedly pro-Mexico. (Soccer fans are going to have to explain to the rest of us why we should get too excited about "friendlies" that are essentially the equivalent of preseason NFL games: Meaningless.)

They love the NFL in England: 500,000 ticket requests in London for 90,000 spots at Wembley Stadium. I think they might be on to something there. Maybe the Jaguars can relocate to London.

(Is covering that game in person the biggest sports-media boondoggle of 2007? In any other year? Perhaps. But this year, it's a distant No. 2, behind the undeniable No. 1 of covering the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.)

Note: I'll be offline all morning, so you might not see your comments posted until later today. I recognize that using comment moderation is annoying and breaks up the flow of any discussion about the topics above. I'm still figuring out how we're going to move forward on that. Thanks for your patience.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wednesday 02/07 A.M. Quickie:
National Signing Day Mania

National Signing Day is for college football fans what the NFL Draft is for pro football fans. It has become one of the biggest days – not just of the college football year – but of the sports year.

NSD injects drama into the offseason and gives every fan hope that their team is making progress. College football recruiting news has evolved into one of the most intriguing cottage industries in sports.

In many ways, it's even more intriguing: For months, there has been speculation, rumor, breaking news of how "visits" went, oral commitments (which has always sounded pretty randy) and – most dramatically – commitments that are rescinded.

And, of course, the money question: "How many 5-stars [players] did you get?" (Or, alternatively: "Where is your class ranked?")

It all culminates today, when recruits officially – finally – sign their commitment letters and end the dance. If you were in a fraternity or sorority in college you will understand and appreciate the following analogy:

The recruits go from rushees -- being wined and dined (and god knows what else) -- to being pledges, which means the program owns their ass.

You will not be able to escape the so-called "experts" today, with their rankings. You may even find it unseemly when player after player goes on national TV to announce his decision. And you'll probably find it lamest that so many fans are breathlessly waiting on the results. I happen to love all this recruiting stuff.

Keep an eye on three NSD developments:

(1) Rich get richer. This is where CFB turns 180 degrees from the NFL's system to encourage parity.

(2) Florida's next national title: Urban Meyer is anticipated to bring in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

(3) Illini fans' best day: As you scan the top classes, one "Hunh?" name stands out: Illinois. Zook can't coach, but wow can he recruit.

UPDATE: Here's a storyline -- UNC's Butch Davis is apparently bringing in a haul. This goes to the heart of what we're debating in the Comments section: Is a great class enough to help turn a historically mediocre program around? Next year? Probably not. But a few years down the line, when this class creates momentum for future classes and legitimizes UNC as a place to pick over traditional powers and this year's talent develops? Absolutely. You also see that with Steve Spurrier's class he's picking up at South Carolina, which typically isn't a recruiting powerhouse. The common thread? Coaches matter.

More of today's biggest storylines:

UPDATE! NFL Rumor of the Day/Week/Month: Was a certain player hung over for the game after a night of SB-eve partying? Kissing Suzy Kolber posts a rumor. Just a rumor...

NBA: Celtics lose 15th straight, but the Grizzlies refuse to relax their grip on "NBA's worst record," losing to the Rockets. It's a race to the bottom!

More NBA: Yes, I neglected to talk about the John Amaechi story. Pretty big, considering that you rarely hear about pro athletes coming out. Expect a lot of columns and analysis about sexuality and sports and the usual "what it all means."

More NBA: Tyrus Thomas gets points for being candid about only being in the dunk contest for the appearance fee. But this was a case where he probably should have kept that to himself -- the NBA should pull him. I'll bet James White would appreciate the chance (oh, and he'd win, too).

College Hoops Parity Watch: Was it just a month ago when I was calling Air Force the top contender to be this year's George Mason? Ugh: AFA got walloped by San Diego State, 62-41. Pretenders!

Meanwhile, outstanding Ohio St freshman PG Mike Conley Jr. had his best college game (23 points, 6 assists), but you have to wonder how much it helps to play with Greg Oden (15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks).

NFL Pro Bowl: LaDainian Tomlinson and Bill Belichick made up in Hawaii. Isn't that sweet? No word yet on whether Shawne Merriman has eaten Jason Taylor yet.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure there's a more worthless rule than the "Merriman Rule" about players who test positive for 'roids not being able to play in the Pro Bowl? So many players duck out of the Pro Bowl anyway, how will this serve as a real deterrent? It won't.

(Update: Commenters are right. I'm discounting the financial gain of being selected for the Pro Bowl. I have a question: How will the NFL keep players from being picked by the fans? Isn't the rule that they can't PLAY in the Pro Bowl? But if selection is based on a fan vote, who's to say the fans won't vote in a Merriman? Will they take the player's name off the ballot? Just curious.)

NFL Coaching: Are the Cowboys serious about hiring Ron Rivera? I have nothing beyond my own speculation to guide me, but I think it'll be a choice between Rivera and Norv Turner -- with Turner getting the job.

(Here's the dilemma: I have long thought -- "long" being "a few weeks" -- that Jerry Jones really wants Jason Garrett as his head coach, but can't bring himself to elevate him right now. Garrett needs more experience. Bringing in Rivera would block Garrett's eventual elevation. Turner would serve as a convenient place-holder.)

Britt Reid: The Eagles coach's son is the new Bengals.

MLB: Aaron Harang gets 4Y/$36.5M deal from the Reds. He led the NL with 216 Ks last season en route to 16 wins.

Varsity Letters Reading Series tonight! If you live in NYC, I highly recommend you check out the Varsity Letters series, hosted by Gelf Magazine's Carl Bialik. Tonight's lineup is great, headlined by SI's SL Price, who wrote that amazing Dwyane Wade "Sportsman of the Year" piece. Anyway, it's at 8 at Happy Ending (302 Broome St.)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Kevin Durant Question:
Is He "The Next" or "The New?"

The Kevin Durant Debate is raging: No. 1 draft prospect over Greg Oden? Best player in college hoops this season? Best freshman ever?

The debate has taken an interesting turn: Henry Abbott over at True Hoop pointed out that the NBA DraftExpress site has officially moved Durant ahead of Oden on their draft board, which might be the first "recognized" site – including the mainstream outlets – to do that.

I'm still wondering how Durant will "redefine" his position in the NBA in the same way that KG or Dirk did, as Durant's many fanboys are arguing.

I don't doubt that he could be a perennial All-Star (much like Carmelo), but I still haven't heard a convincing argument of how he actually changes his position.

Why isn't it enough to say: He's the next Dirk? (Which is, by my estimation, Durant's closest NBA comparable and a template he'll be hard-pressed to improve on.)

Then a team with the No. 1 pick has to ask itself: Do they want the next David Robinson (Oden) or the next Dirk Nowitzki (Durant)?

I'm not suggesting which type of player has more value – a case could be made for both. I'm just wondering whether Durant is as transcendent, "game-changing" talent as everyone says... or merely an awesome conventional player.

By the way, I had an interesting exchange with The Big Lead last week about Durant's place in CBB history. Is he the best freshman ever? ("Ever" meaning "the last 20 years?") I'd say "Best" is an overly simplified formula of Individual Talent - Talent around you + Competition x Ultimate Tournmanent Success.

I think it's simple: I cannot rank any freshman over Carmelo Anthony. Not unless Durant carries Texas to a national title.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 02/06 A.M. Quickie:
HFA, XLI, Leinart-Milano, Durant, Dunks, More!

Note: What did I say yesterday? That after the Super Bowl, the entire sports world simply flips to an entirely new season. How do I know this? Because today's morning post starts with soccer (just as a jump-off, I promise!), continues with college hockey (WTF?!) and finishes with the Pro Bowl (No! Anything but that!) Some of you might not have been paying much attention to the NBA or college hoops or college football recruiting until this moment now that the NFL playing season is over. Welcome! Now, on with the morning...

What if your team played a home game but no one was there to root them on?

Will Italy ban fans from its top-level soccer matches? It's a pretty fascinating story, even if it is (a) about soccer and (b) about Europe. (Neither of which I know any of you care about.)

But it raises an interesting hypothetical: What would happen if, say, an NFL game or a college football game or an NBA or college hoops game was played in front of NO ONE.

What if Duke hoops played "at home" in an empty stadium? Or LSU football? Or the Seahawks? Or the Mavs? What exactly is the impact of the energy of the crowd? And what would an absence of that energy do to a team? (Hell, either team?)

I'm just curious what you think the effect would be in one of those sports if a top-tier team with an avid home fan-base (and presumably a great home-court advantage) if the team played in front of totally empty seats?

Super Bowl XLI Hangover: It was the second-most-watched Super Bowl in history, along with the third-most-watched TV show ever.

It continues to be astounding when sports events can defy the current overall TV ratings slide from fragmentation of audience attention span.

Matt Leinart and... Alyssa Milano? You know what: They deserve each other. Hope Alyssa likes kids.

College Hoops: What a best-of-both-worlds game last night on ESPN between Texas A&M and Texas:

Fans got to see THE break-out team of the year (Aggies) and THE most talented player in the game (Durant).

The Aggies won the game, yet another quality win that helps confirm that they are no mere fluke, come March.

(Or are they? Are the Aggies simply setting everyone up to be "that team" that has the amazing regular season, draws a No. 2 seed, then falls short of the Final Four? Marco at Just Call Me Juice has the analysis of why the Aggies are legit... like I said before: If you pick them to fold early, they'll go to the Final Four; if you pick them to the Final Four, they'll fold early. It's inevitable. They will absolutely be this year's Bracket Buster team.)

And Kevin Durant got his (28 points, 15 rebounds -- his 14th double-double of the season.)

More on this later today.

NFL Coaching Search: So do the Cowboys want Ron Rivera or what? Or are they simply going to hire Norv Turner? And will they convince Rivera (pay him enough) to take a defensive coordinator role under Turner with the promise of full control and a promotion in a season or two? Rivera can afford to wait a season and be the top candidate for any job a year from now.

NBA Last Night:
Homecoming: Stephen Jackson racks up 36 on the Pacers in his return to Indianapolis as a member of the game-winning Warriors.

Confirmation: Caron Butler scored a career-high 38 (as Gil was cold and Jamison was DNP) and the Wiz beat the Sonics.

Question: How "valuable" could Steve Nash be if the Suns didn't need him to rally for a win over Denver? (Tracking: Nash's hurt shoulder).

NBA All-Star Game: Your dunk contestants: Nate Robinson, Gerald Green, Tyrus Thomas and Dwight Howard. A few comments: (1) Nate-Rob better not get 100 attempts to complete a dunk. (2) Big men (Thomas, Howard) will have a hard time winning. (3) Where is James "Flight" White? (thanks to TrueHoop for the tip-off).

Oh, reader Jerry Sloan sent me a link to a great post from his blog, comparing NBA names to the characters on "The Wire" that they represent. I'm a "Wire" fanatic, so this was of obvious interest. (Jerry, you copped out on McNulty. I'm going with Gil Arenas: Anti-authority high-performer.)

Mario Danelo's autopsy showed he was drunk when he plunged off the cliff to his death. A sad story gets worse.

College Hockey: (Yeah, you read that right.) I (barely) follow two college hockey events all year – the Frozen Four and the Beanpot, which held its semis last night, producing BU and BC for the title-game.

(I think my Beanpot interest came from going to school in Boston for two years, enjoying the college hockey scene... and from my wife dating a Beanpot star in college. As well-documented in the old Quickie chats, he was a future NHL player. Not that I have an inferiority complex about that or anything.)

NFL Pro Bowl: As usual, there is ZERO buzz... Worst all-star game in sports. Which is amazing, given that it is the most popular sport.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday 02/05 A.M. Quickie:
Super Bowl Hangover

Super Bowl XLI Hangover: I'll point you to the live-blog/live-comment post below for everyone's take throughout the game. Meanwhile, with a night to sleep on it, here are:

The Big Winners:

1. Peyton Manning: Wait, no more "Peyton face" jokes?

2. Tony Dungy: First African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl IS that historic. (But I'm not quite sure his faith had as much to do with the win as his coaching skills.)

3. Prince: Best Halftime Show Ever.

4. Adam Vinatieri: 4 Super Bowl rings puts him ahead of Brady.

5. User-created ads: Huge success. Do it as well (or better) than the pros. See my longer post below.

6. Bud Light: Best of the "traditional" ads.

The Big Losers:

1. Rex Grossman: He'll be crushed for this as the literal and symbolic reasons the Bears lost, but can you really begrudge the Sex Cannon? He is what he is. (Or, more precisely, as Commenter "Mike" put it: "He is who we thought he was.")

2. Weathermen: Someone needs to take the blame for that worst-ever game weather.

3. Gamblers: Specifically, anyone taking the Bears and the 7 points. Particularly after seeing the weather report. Ugh.

4. Never should have dropped the monkeys. Monkeys in Super Bowl ads this year -- a down year -- would have won the Ad Challenge.

5. Super Bowl ZZZZ? Both the early reviews and morning-after commentary seems to be shifting that the game was pretty flat... even boring. Not for Colts fans, but the rest of us.

What Next? When a team wins a Super Bowl, the other NFL teams usually fast-follow their blueprint. While it's hard to replicate having your own Peyton Manning, I think more teams will employ the 2-RB system, which was the biggest reason the Colts' offense had any success.

USA Today AdMeter: Did the Bud "Crab" ad really win the top honor? USA Today's system is broken – either that or their research sample sucks. There's no way that was the best ad. Bud Light had at least a handful that were better – along with the user-created Doritos ads. (And one more time: CareerBuilder missed its monkeys.) Which were your favorite ads?

Reminder: The "You" Factor was THE biggest storyline of the Super Bowl ads. See my post on it below. Meanwhile, forget USA Today! All the cool kids are going over to YouTube to rank the ads and give the results a far more accurate, authentic, Wisdom-of-Crowds appeal. Here's the link.

What you might have missed while focusing on the Super Bowl:

College Hoops Parity Watch: Duke loses at home to Florida State: This ain't your regular Duke team. No, they're not NEARLY as good. FSU wins for the first time ever at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Signature "Parity Watch" win this season?

NBA: Pistons beat Cavs in Cleveland. Detroit is the only East team with a winning record on the road. Does that give them the edge as the team to beat in the playoffs? Meanwhile, the Raptors are this year's Clippers -- and symbolically, the Raps beat the Clips yesterday.

NFL Coaching Search: Will the Cowboys make a play for Bears assistant Ron Rivera today? How "up" could he possibly be for that interview after losing last night? (First question: "Uh, our defense isn't as good as Chicago's. How can WE win the Super Bowl?")

The Monday after the Super Bowl is always Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl. But the flip side is that starting tomorrow, we flip into an entire new season of the sports year. Coming later this week on this blog: NBA Midseason Awards, College Football National Signing Day, my first official College Hoops Top 10 of the season and more.

-- D.S.

Super Bowl Ads: Final Analysis
"You" Trump the Experts, Again

Super Bowl Ads: Final Analysis. There were very few (if any) "wow" ads. Bud Light had a few funny ones (not unexpected). Coke went all-out on the animation on that take-off on "Grand Theft Auto." There were some clever, if not laugh-out-loud, individual moments.

But here was the breakthrough:

The "You" Factor.

First, Doritos' two ads created by users
both made my Top 10. The first (car accident) was was a Top 5 ad, and the second one (check-out line) included the most subversively risque line of the night. (So much for the pricey fees usually paid to ad agency "creatives.")

Second, YouTube meets the Super Bowl: USA Today's "AdMeter" might get first dibs this Monday morning, but I predict it will be displaced by YouTube's effort to let anyone watch -- and rank -- all the ads. It'll be a much more authentic (even accurate) result. Here's the link.

In both cases, we continue to see the erosion of traditional "expertise," displaced by the power of user-generated content, collaboration and critical analysis... and that's not just a powerful thing, but a great thing.

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Live-Comment Bonanza

Top 5 Post-SBXLI Storylines:
1. Peyton Manning (Redemption)
2. Tony Dungy (Race)
3. Rex Grossman (Sucked)
4. Weather (Sucked)
5. User-Created Ads (Success!)

Final Update: Colts win Super Bowl XLI!
You have to feel good for Tony Dungy. And, yes, you have to feel even better for Peyton Manning. You probably have to feel most (if not best) for Rex Grossman, who is going to be crucified for his performance in this game. (And you have to allow me one brief moment to yelp "I called it!...Colts over Bears! August!")

Game MVP: Dominic Rhodes.
Ads MVP: Bud Light ("Rock-Paper-Scissors")

It's 10 p.m. The game is over. Thanks for following along, and -- if you're checking this out after the game -- simply scroll down to see commentary from throughout the game.
Your thoughts on the game? Have your say in the Comments section.

While it's still an issue...last chance: Who gets your MVP vote? I can't give it to Manning and I won't be able to split it between Rhodes and Addai (though that would be best), so I'll say Dominic Rhodes. OK, or ABP (Anyone But Peyton).

Wait, was that the 2-minute warning ad for NFL done by the fan who won the contest? Is it me or did they imply that Brett Favre was retiring? Or was it a sly nod to the fact that he ISN'T retiring? ("For some it's even harder." Harder to leave, so he isn't? Or harder to leave because he's such an NFL icon...but, uh, he isn't leaving.) Can't believe the Colts are going to win the Super Bowl. Wow. Well, good for them.

Enlarged prostate is the new erectile dysfunction. Flomax, baby! (I'm sorry. Anything to take my attention from Rex's implosion.)

Awww, Rexy. You just lost the game on that INT-TD. Damn. Two commenters arguing that was the worst throw in SB history. On replay, it wasn't that bad. Obviously, the implications of the INT are about as bad as you can think of.

(Hmm: How about that Joey T INT in SB 18 in 1984 at the end of the first half that basically sealed the loss for the Redskins? What am I thinking? That's distant history. This is INSTANT history: Rex had the Worst. INT. Ever!)

Wait: Jay-Z and Don Shula playing some crazy futuristic form of that old football game with the magnetized players who vibrate down the field? Wha?

I'm going to answer my own question from the end of the 3rd quarter -- how about a co-MVP between Rhodes and Addai? It's unfair to give it to one or the other... and totally unfair to give it to neither simply because they were both equally effective. (Yes, I know: The Colts still have to win. Wait: Or am I trying to invoke the ol' reverse jinx?)

Nope! Back under 7 again. OK, I'm going to stop doing that now. Will has a great point over on the SportsLine "glog" (Does that mean he has beer gloggles?) Given the way that the Colts are winning with the run, not Manning's passing, if they win, will they not give the MVP to Manning? If not, then who? I leave you with that relevant question at the end of the 3rd.

Well, there goes that 7-point spread.

I haven't mentioned this yet, but this game is the reason why actually going to the game is totally overrated. Even in good weather. But in bad weather? Cripes: You couldn't PAY me to be there. You're so much better off being at home.

Halftime Show:
It's possible that "Let's Go Crazy" is one of the Top 5 "get fired up" songs of all time. (Yes, I just said "get fired up." And I apologize.) But Prince is pretty freaking awesome.

Wait: They just brought out the FAMU band! They're awesome!

Last comment on the halftime show: That was probably the best musical entertainment for a Super Bowl Halftime Show I can remember. Dare I say: Ever? (If you can think of another, please nominate it. Maybe U2? But this was super-super-solid.)

Halftime Update:
I defy you to be able to explain any flow to this game. Just when you think the Colts are ready to take over, Adam V. misses a half-ending FG. Whaaa?! Meanwhile, on my Ad Ranking, I'm taking: (1) Bud Light Rock-Paper-Scissors, then a tie for 2nd between the 2 Doritos ads.

Adam Vinatieri...misses? In a Super Bowl? What an omen.

I'm sorry to be so obsessed with Bud Light, but they're the Super Bowl ad gold-standard, this year even more than other years. I'm going to predict that slapping people in the face is the next "Wazzup?!" Keep that shit away from me. (Oh, and the game? If you say you can predict how it's going to go, you're kidding yourself. Bears look in control, all of a sudden, they're behind and look bad.)

Doritos is now 2-for-2 on consumer-generated ad concepts. In fact, this second one was better than the first. I can't believe they got away with "Cleanup on..." Really? Really?! Amazing.

Coke's take on "Grand Theft Auto" was terrific.

Geez, could there be any more fumbles and other unnatural possession changes? (Well, yes...given the weather? A LOT more.)

Bud Light 3... Wow, their ad agency is on fire tonight. The Colts better get something going on offense before it gets too much more wet out there.

Snickers? Not really funny. Like a bad rip-off of a Bud Light ad. I agree with the Commenters: Bud Light's Rock-Paper-Scissors is the leader in the clubhouse.

Wow, did the mo just turn or what? Bomb on blown coverage, followed by a kickoff miscue giving the Colts awesome field position. Wait: No! The Bears get the ball back! I love it!

Bud Light: 2 User-Generated Ad Content: 1. The paid professionals? Uh, 0?

First block of ads? GREAT start. The Bud Light ad was CLASSIC Bud Light -- frat-funny. The Doritos ad proves that dudes on the street can create funnier ads than the paid ad agencies. Nice work, random guy.

I'm sitting with all Gators fans. We've seen this opening before. Wow, is Hester awesome or what? (And do the Colts special teams suck or what?)

Billy Joel's anthem came in, by my watch, at 1:37. The over/under was 1:44. Who had the under?

Cirque de Soleil is the new "Up With People." (No, I'm not going to comment all game long. At least, I'm not planning to. Maybe when I'm inspired.)

OK, here we go
: Comment here with your "live" analysis of the pre-game, the game, the ads, the entertainment and everything else.

(I'm still moderating all the comments, but I'll be updating those often, as close to real-time as I can... there might be a lag. No need to re-send your comment if you don't see it up there instantly.)

If you're looking for good live-blogs to check out, I recommend MJD at Deadspin and Will Leitch "glogging" over at SportsLine. And Kissing Suzy Kolber, too. Feel free to send along any good live-blogs and I'll post them in the comments.

(And, yes, here is the link to Kornheiser/Wilbon at, even though Wilbon already has this disparaging line about blogging: "I'm not sure why ANYBODY would participate in this silliness while a game is going on." Ooh: We're all so LUCKY to have him!)

Here's to a great game and hope you're having a good time while watching. -- D.S.

Sunday 02/04 A.M. Quickie:
Super Bowl XLI Countdown

Super Bowl XLI: Here we go. What an interesting situation this year: Whether the Colts win or lose, the biggest storyline will be Peyton Manning. Hell,, the New York Post and everyone else can already have their headline written:

"Peyton's Place"

Now, that "Place" is either (1) his place among the elite QBs with a Super Bowl ring (if the Colts win) or (2) his place among the all-time biggest big-game chokers in football history.

The leads are written: "Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl..." or "Peyton Manning screwed up his first Super Bowl."

This is not meant to dis the Bears, the rest of the Colts or the compelling coaching subplot, but no matter what the result, the biggest storyline will surround Manning.

Meanwhile, the ads are always a huge storyline, but I'm wondering this year if the "winner" in the USA Today "AdMeter" will have less impact than tracking which ad gets the most plays (or user votes) on YouTube tomorrow.

I'll have a live-comment post about the game starting after noon. And I will be pointing you to three variations on live-blogging, of increasing "mainstreamness":

*MJD at Deadspin.
*Will Leitch "glogging" at SportsLine.
*Kornheiser/Wilbon at the WashPost.

(I'm rescinding my recommendation to check out Tony K and Wilbon, because they won't actually be live-blogging, but dictating to someone who types in their commentary. I think that's lame. Don't glom onto "blogging," but then skip the part about actually doing it yourself. That's part of blogging's authenticity. Rather than "live-blogging," let's call it "live-dictating" or even "live commentary." But please don't call it a live-blog. That diminishes everyone else who is actually typing commentary themselves.)

More of today's biggest storylines:

Kobe trumps Gilbert: More points AND the win (on the road).

I'd like the NBA to consider having Kobe and Gil play a game of H-O-R-S-E during All-Star Weekend, each putting up $1 million of their own money and the winner giving it all to the charity of his choice.

(Gil created the template with that 3-point shooting contest against DeShawn Stevenson after Wiz practice last week.)

College Hoops Parity Watch: I'm happy to obsess over UNC's loss at NC State (which should take a lot of the oomph out of the argument that UNC is the favorite to win the NCAA title in March), but what about Iona winning its first game of the season?

Texas A&M is going to bust a lot of brackets: Do you think they are they the Final Four bandwagon team that beat Kansas at Kansas yesterday? Or do you think they are they this season's nouveau riche Top 10 team destined for an early-round fizzle. Undoubtedly, they will be the opposite of whatever you pick them to do in the bracket.

Meanwhile, what about the mayhem across the rest of the Top 25? Including UNC losing at NC St and Kansas losing for the first time at home to A&M, I don't think that there is a bigger representative day of this season's parity:

Oregon losing at USC? Oklahoma State losing at Colorado? VA Tech losing at BC? Notre Dame losing at SoFla? Clemson losing at GA Tech? Texas losing (at home) to Kansas State? Indiana losing at Iowa? UNLV getting crushed at BYU? (Obviously, a lot of the parity seems to come from home-court advantage.) Oh, and how about "UCLA 82, Oregon State 35?" Not parity, but: Yeesh.

(The team playing the best right now? Florida. Anyone else is a distant second. Now, mind you, that means squat for March.)

Pro Football Hall of Fame: The biggest scandal – Why does Michael Irvin make it in and Art Monk does not? It says a lot about the voters being dazzled by Irvin's in-career preening and post-career TV life, while Monk was quiet and dignified.

-- D.S.