Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday 07/21 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Worst. Week. Ever.

The question must be asked: Was last week sports' Worst Week Ever? Consider:

NBA: Ref game-fixing scandal.
NFL: Vick dog-fighting scandal.
MLB: Bonds record-breaker in sight.

Now, I'm obviously using hyperbole, but it's hard to remember in the last decade or so a single week -- across the Big Three of professional sports -- that was this damaging.

(Actually, if I was the editor of Sports Illustrated, that's exactly what I'd put on the cover next week: A picture of Vick, of Donaghy and of Bonds, with the headline: "Worst Week Ever?")

The NBA is reeling from the scandal. "Tim Donaghy" -- previously anonymous -- is marked forever in NBA history. What's amazing is that my gut reaction "hyperbo-nalysis" yesterday morning -- that this may qualify as the biggest scandal in NBA history -- might have been right on.

Bonds is still at 753. For now.

The NFL's Roger Goodell met with ASPCA reps yesterday about Michael Vick. Normally, this would be a fringe group when it comes to pressuring the NFL, but I think the Vick case has stirred outrage among fans, too -- particularly ones who are pet owners -- to the point that they will be more sympathetic to groups like ASPCA and PETA than they would have been just a few weeks ago.

*MLB Stud: Josh Beckett has 10 Ks in earning his 13th win.

*Beckham debut today: Is it really a "debut" if he doesn't play?

*F1: Lewis Hamilton involved in nasty crash. Bad week for European sports leagues, too, I guess.

Feel free to add anything I missed. And I'm sure I missed. By the way, I got my copy of Harry Potter at 2 a.m. last night at a local Duane Reade pharmacy, rather than deal with the mayhem at a traditional bookstore.

(Another book arrived yesterday -- arguably one I'm even more eagerly anticipating than Harry Potter: Clay Travis' "Dixieland Delight," which hits stores in 10 days. Looks like a long weekend of reading ahead.)

-- D.S.

Friday, July 20, 2007

P.M. Update: Potter Fans vs. Sports Fans

P.M. UPDATE: Harry Potter Mania! I nearly forgot to mention Harry Potter coming out tonight at midnight. It's not a sports story -- it's only the dominant pop-culture story of the month, however -- but there is a sports analogy:

It's all one big race to read the thing before you inevitably hear what happens through media, friends, whatever. In this way, it's like TiVo'ing a sports event, then trying to watch it without finding out what happened. If you've ever tried doing it, it's freaking hard. A story:

Once, when I worked at in Seattle in 1996, I worked on a Saturday -- helping to manage the college football desk that day, if I recall -- but I was taping the Northwestern-Wisconsin football game. I didn't want to know the result... and I was working in a sports newsroom! My co-workers tortured me, but didn't spoil it. (Them: "Oh, it's an AMAZING ending!" Me: "SHUT UP! SHUT UP!")

Here's the trick: I wasn't able to watch the game tape until Monday, and I managed to avoid hearing the score -- again, working in the newsroom at -- not just all day and evening on Saturday, but throughout my full-day shift on Sunday. When I finally popped in the tape on Monday, I was delighted to experience a thrilling Northwestern win.

It remains one of my greatest accomplishments as a fan.

Commenters: Any of you ever avoid a score to not have your own postponed viewing ruined? What lengths did you go to?

-- D.S.

Friday 07/20 A.M. Quickie:
Bonds 752-3, Tiger, Vick, Beckham, NCAA Racism, More!

NBA Ref Gambling and Game-Fixing Scandal! Wow, even if it's just one ref, this story (broken by the NY Post) could be the worst scandal in the history of the NBA. Huge huge story. Wow: NBA game-fixing, NFL star-indicting, MLB record-tainting. The scandal trifecta!

Bonds hits 752 AND 753: That puts tying Hank Aaron (two more) and breaking Aaron's record (three more) within reach this weekend... in Milwaukee of all oh-my-god-the-irony locations. (Bud Selig doesn't really have much of a choice whether he's going to show up now, does he?)

As soon as he gets to 754, it's time for the stop-what-you're-doing live cut-ins. No matter how you might feel about Bonds, it's still sports history.

Woods hits 90-footer at British Open: You know, if that happened in baseball -- given the major golf headline of the week -- people would be wondering out loud: "Steroids?"

(Oh my god: Consider for a moment if Tiger Woods was exposed to be on steroids or some other form of PED.)

David Beckham makes MLS debut... or NOT?: After all that build-up, it looks like he won't even play this weekend against Chelsea. So, will they not put the game on TV at all or will the "Beckham Cam" simply track him meandering along the sidelines?

Vick Watch: Forget the prospects of going to jail or being suspended for part (or all) of the upcoming NFL season. The real signal that Michael Vick is in trouble is that Nike shelved the upcoming release of Vick's signature shoe. (h/t Rovell on the scoop).

Meanwhile, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is "saddened and distressed," but apparently not so much that he'll cut Vick immediately or personally. It's not an easy position to be in: Vick IS his team's signature player and he IS still, until further notice, popular with fans. (Where is the poll showing that, since the indictment, Vick's popularity has plummeted? Haven't seen it yet, so if you have any info, let me know. UPDATE: From a quick-thinking email tipster, the word is that it's 50/50 among Falcons fans... for now.)

College Football: Called out as a Florida bandwagoneer! There's this phenomenal new blog, Lake the Posts, devoted to Northwestern football (which badly needed a phenomenal new blog), and as part of his ramp-up, the LTP blogger (a close friend of mine) has been counting down the greatest NU football moments of the last two decades.

Today's entry is particularly good, even if you don't care about Northwestern football, because the blogger takes a front-handed swipe at my Gator bandwagoneering (so-called) and provides the definitive parable about my Northwestern-Florida fandom schism. Here's the link to the post (and if you're a Northwestern fan, this blog is a daily must-read).

Daunte Culpepper meets with the Bucs: That could be a good fit. I'd like to see Culpepper and Chris Simms room together in a reality-TV show.

NFL Camping: Rookies are starting to trickle in (the Jets rookies arrived yesterday) and camps really ramp up next week. Your long wait is over.

MLB Dud: Chris Carpenter, whose elbow problems are so severe that he isn't just done for this season, but he's probably screwed for next season, too. If he's even able to ever come back, the Cards should make room for him in the bullpen. Or maybe they can try him out as a minor-league outfielder. That seems to be their m.o. on rehab projects.

MLB Stud: CC Sabathia, who picked up win No. 13. He's the new Chris Carpenter! (OK, maybe not, but how could I resist the "new" comparison?)

College Sports: NCAA Racism/Classism? I'm confused by this story about the NCAA allowing tennis players to accept pro-style prize money before enrolling in college.

How can they possibly create this rules loophole, yet insist that college hoops or football players not take any money before (or during) college?

I'm no fan of paying college athletes – if a tennis player wants to accept prize money as an amateur, that's their decision; they shouldn't be allowed to play college sports, if college sports want to maintain any remaining facade of "amateurism."

You can make money as a teen pro or you can have a college scholarship. Seems pretty simple. To allow a loophole for tennis players smacks of implicit (hell: explicit) racism AND classism. Quite a double-play by the NCAA.

If they allow tennis players to get paid like pros before they enter college yet still retain athletic eligibility, the first thing I would do as a star high school football player is go get a $10,000 "prize" from EA or Nike, then sue the hell out of the NCAA if the NCAA attempts to keep me from entering college and playing football.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday 07/19 A.M. Quickie:
Vick, British Open, Bonds, Big East, More!

Vick Watch, Cont'd: The current plan from the NFL isn't to suspend Vick (according to Schefter via PFT), but you can still hope.

Actually, if anything, the cautious "wait-and-see" approach from the league makes their aggressively established "Get Tough" personal conduct policy look like a sham: If you're not a star, you get the rack; if you're a star, "well, let's not rush to judgment!"

Meanwhile, Vick's first court appearance is a week from today, incidentally the first day of Falcons training camp. It's like Fate has an amazing sense of humor (if not for the – y'know – electrocution, drowning, hanging and beating of dogs to death).

(MDS at Fanhouse has a great little pick-up: The judge assigned to the case is a hard-ass on defendants. Yikes for Vick.)

British Open: The best British Open storyline is that Gary Player claims that there are steroids in golf. It's an amusing concept, until you realize that he's almost certainly right. And I'll bet it's even more widespread than you think. It always is, particularly in the places you least expect.

Meanwhile, here's why golf has become boring. My analysis? Um, yeah: I'll take Tiger to win, like he has the last two B.O.'s. (Any breakdown beyond that is opining for the sake of opining.)

(Related: Take a sip every time you hear or read someone torture the cliched pun "Car-nasty" in reference to the Open course.)

Bonds Watch: He sits... again. And anyone who put money down on an August 1 over/under on when he breaks Aaron's record has to be a little nervous at this point.

MLB Stud: Julio Franco! MLB's Methuselah given a new lease on his 48-year-old life after being signed by the Braves.

MLB Stud, 2: Carlos Zambrano becomes the NL's first 12-game winner.

MLB Dud: BBWAA (an organization I rip on regularly), for tossing out a Japanese baseball writer who asked for Roger Clemens' autograph, which is a no-no according to BBWAA guidelines. Not that the foreign writer understood that, but that didn't stop the BBWAA from banning him. Hmm: I didn't see that they had a policy about BBWAA members who have personal favorite players they write sympathetically about. That seems to me to be a much greater offense. (Not to mention the ridiculous way that this group gets to determine which players are Hall of Fame-worthy or not. But that's another story.)

College Football Media Daze: Big East. I'm a few days late on talking about Big East Media Day (my annual moment to take a snapshot of the league and what will happen in the upcoming season).

First of all, let's look back: The conference is coming off an amazing year. Rutgers was the national Cinderella story of the season. West Virginia and Louisville were national-title contenders. The league's profile shot up.

In 2007, I'm with the writers who pick West Virginia to win the conference (though Louisville QB Brian Brohm is the league's best shot to win the Heisman, with Rutgers RB Ray Rice the next-best candidate). WVA is led by the electrifying combo of Pat White and Steve Slaton. Then add blink-and-you'll-miss-him Noel Devine to Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, and that's why WVU is in the mix for the national title. (I won't reveal my BCS title-game pick until later this summer.)

Heisman Watch: Why Darren McFadden got my Heisman vote a year ago and why he should be the No. 1 contender in 2007: Best. Car. Ever.

LeBron to host "SNL" in the fall: I actually think LeBron is a pretty gifted actor (for an athlete). He'll do really well... except for the fact that, well, "SNL" sketches are absolutely terrible. (The digital videos are OK sometimes, but what does it say that SNL has to rip off YouTube amateurs in order to be remotely funny or relevant?)

NHL: This might be the smartest move that the NHL has ever made, particularly considering their current situation.

Pimp-My-Blog Goodness: In case you missed yesterday's announcement, I have partnered with the email newsletter Thrillist. Click here to sign up for it or click here to see yesterday's post about it with details.

Navel-Gazing: Believe it or not, I'm not the type of person to obsessively check my Technorati status (maybe once every few months, if that), but on a whim I just checked it out, and I have cracked the Top 10,000 ranking. That's really kind of cool. I'm quite sure that they'll boot me out once they realize the mistake they've made.

Finally, a quasi-welcome to Epic Carnival, a new-ish group sports blog. I say "new-ish" because it's all bloggers you've probably seen linked on Deadspin or read directly yourselves, all in one place. It's sort of like AOL Fanhouse without the financial compensation. Good luck to the E.C. Cool idea!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Temporary Reprieve From "Vick 24/7": Partners With Thrillist

Looking for Quickie-style Vick coverage?
Scroll down to the next post or
click here.

As you have hopefully noticed, I don't pimp out this blog with ads. When I put links on the site -- whether it's to another blog or to T-shirts -- it's because I like what's behind them. I have dabbled with Google AdSense (and, of course, my T-shirts), but otherwise, I am proud to be ad-free.

I have, however, been actively looking for relationships with companies and products that I like and that I think would be a good fit with you all. With that in mind, I'm excited to announce a new partnership with Thrillist, a daily email newsletter for guys. There's a national edition for everyone, plus editions specifically for New York and L.A., whether you live there or just want to know what's going on there.

(Let me be as transparent as possible: The deal includes compensation to me based on the number of people who sign up and become regular subscribers. That is NOT a reason to sign up; do it because you think Thrillist sounds useful or seems like a cool product that you want to try out... Or, OK, sure: Because I said so.)

If you're interested in giving Thrillist a try-out, use this link to sign up.

Now, back to uplifting stories of electrocuting, drowning, hanging and beating dogs to death...

-- D.S.

Wednesday 07/18 A.M. Quickie:
Michael Vick Indictment (What: You Need More?)

Mike Vick Indicted: This is big. This is really big. Given the speculation being thrown around less than 24 hours after it came down (Suspended now! Suspended later! Suspended for the season! Suspended for life! Going to jail! Dropped by Nike!), it's the all-hands-on-deck sports scandal of the summer. (Indictment here, via Smoking Gun)

Let's glaze over Vick's presumptive innocence (or – cough! – guilt) and the truly despicable underlying crimes (even if he was indicted merely for "conspiracy" and not the crimes themselves) and jump right to the upshot:

Will he be suspended? (Let alone the other elephant: "Will he go to jail?"

Given Roger Goodell's new "Get Tough" policy, is there any doubt that Vick will be suspended? The question is: For how long? This has to be bigger than Jared Allen's 4-game suspension (with 2 games off for, uh, good behavior!)

Is it worse than Pac-Man Jones, who got a season-long ban? Consider that Jones had a much longer track record of problems. Also consider that Vick is one of the league's Top 5 most popular players. Does that make things better or worse for Vick? Throw in the fact that he told Goodell he had nothing to do with any of this. (Great scoop by Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole on the implications of this.)

Yikes. (If the Commish charges hard on the gambling angle of Vick's problems, Goodell could ban Vick for life.)

Even if he's not suspended for a full season, but "only" suspended for 4 games or 8 games, that's still either a quarter or half of the season. Not to mention the humiliation to the Falcons franchise. Would they dare cut him outright? Doubt it. (Bet they regret trading Matt Schaub now...)

Some might suggest that Vick deserves the career equivalent of what he and his partners allegedly -- yes, allegedly -- did to those dogs who didn't win: Electrocution, drowning, hanging, shooting.

The upcoming NFL season just got its headlining headline. Tracking...

(PFT is the top place to go for all of the ongoing details, and Fanhouse is posting strong on an angle-by-angle basis, as seen from the links above.)

UPDATE: As I see or hear about good Vick-related content, I'll try to update the post. For starters, Drew at KSK deploys his parodic skills and probably captures the Vick story better than any standard "analyst." Here's the link.

More: MJD with a parable.

More: Cold Hard Football Facts.

WSOP Main Event spoiler at the end of the column. Not that you can avoid it elsewhere. It's not like I'm ruining it for everyone.

Speaking of Pac-Man, he's angling for a new nickname: "Chutzpah Jones." (Greatest. Nickname. Ever.) His agent says that even though he's suspended for the season, he wants to participate in training camp and exhibition games. What part of "season-long" does he not get?

Dolphins release Daunte Culpepper: Who DIDN'T see this coming? I suspect he'll end up in Jacksonville ("my" Jags!), wrecking my man Byron Leftwich's mojo. Or what was left of it.

MLB Stud: Leo Nunez, the Royals reliever called up from AAA who made his first career start and kept the Red Sox at bay long enough to help KC beat Boston.

Bonds Watch: He can't break the record if he isn't in the lineup.

Meanwhile, I really enjoyed following yesterday's spirited discussion in the Comments section about the Bonds poll. I agree that Bonds' jerkiness (or suspicions of cheating) trumps his race when lining up reasons to dislike him. But there have been a lot of jerks (and cheaters) who have piled up records; hell, the entire Steroid Era of baseball is tainted – it's just easier to focus your frustration of that era on one guy rather than consider the infinite level of cheating that went on. It would be one thing to root against Bonds breaking the record if he was 50 or 100 homers away; to root against Bonds to break the record when his breaking the record is inevitable smacks of spitefulness more than anything else.

NBA: Yi won't play for the Bucks, period. I have a hard time begrudging Yi (or his handlers) their decision; the Bucks knew he didn't want to play in Milwaukee, yet they still took him. This represents arguably the biggest draft bungle of the decade. What can the Bucks get for Yi in a trade with a team in a market he'd be more willing to play in?

Stephon Marbury calls out Michael Jordan: You can dislike Stephon Marbury professionally (and love Michael Jordan) and still support Marbury's new-found populist streak with his inexpensive shoes – it's hard to beat Jordan at anything, but Marbury has him on this one.

Rovell on the Durant-Nike deal... and on the fate of Vick's new Nike shoe line.

College Football: I guess the NYT's Pete Thamel (best CFB reporter in the country) has been on vacation, but he's back with an analysis of the Big East's rise from patsy to powerhouse. That's today's Must-Read.

WSOP: Congrats to poker rookie Jerry Yang, the new WSOP champ.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday 07/17 A.M. Quickie:
Bonds and Race, Kason Gabbard, JC Navarro, Durant, More!

Confirming the obvious: The Bonds Home Run Chase has a racial fault line. According to a new poll, 55 percent of minority baseball fans want to see Bonds set the record, but only 34 percent of white baseball fans want to see him set the record. (According to a much-discussed poll last fall, 34 percent of minorities wanted Bonds to break the record.)

40 percent of fans overall want Bonds to break the record, a slight (but notable) increase from the 33 percent last fall. For the record, I am one of those 40 percent.

If you're part of the 60 percent of fans who don't want Bonds to break the record, you might be in the majority, but you'll ultimately be on the losing side of history. He's going to break the record, and you might not like it, but you need to accept it.

Speaking of all-time home runs: Ken Griffey passes Frank Robinson on all-time home run list. Griffey is now in sole possession of 6th place.

MLB Stud: Kason Gabbard, the Red Sox rookie pitcher, who threw a three-hit complete game, a better individual performance than any by the more experienced (and more expensive) pitcher he replaced in the rotation, Curt Schilling.

MLB Dud: Scott Olsen, suspended two games by the Florida Marlins for what the team is calling insubordination. Sounds like a peach of a guy.

Juan Carlos Navarro Watch: The Wizards will regret trading away the Spanish superstar -- let alone to a division rival. The hot rumor is that the Heat want JCN. A Wade-JCN backcourt in Miami would be unfair.

Speaking of Wade: He reportedly won't be rehabbed from his injury in time for training camp. All he needs to be ready for is next spring's playoffs.

NBA Summer, Follow-Up: Let me be clear. By not putting Kevin Durant on my All-Summer First Team, I am not suggesting he won't be a perfectly fine (even great) NBA player. I just didn't think he was one of the Top 5 most impressive rookies of the summer.

Beckham Watch: Gee, that wasn't very interesting. In his first practice with the Galaxy, Beckham... stretched. Oh, and a few kicking drills! Breathless stuff, indeed.

NFL: Chiefs DE Jared Allen is the latest caught in Roger Goodell's "Get Tough" campaign, getting a two-game suspension for a couple of DUIs -- but it was cut in half from an original four-game suspension. Still, is it that the players are that much more delinquent -- or that Paul Tagliabue was that much of a see-no-evil leader?

Kevin Durant signs with Nike: This has seemed like the obvious choice for months (if not years), but it's finally official. It'll be interesting to see if fans want to wear a Durant signature shoe (if Nike even makes one for him).

-- D.S.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday 07/16 A.M. Quickie:
Phillies 10K, Ichiro, Kobe Trade, NBA Summer, More!

Phillies reach 10,000 all-time losses: Call it today's Stud AND today's Dud. Ignominious milestone or glorious celebration? I'll take the latter.

For a city of fans seemingly consumed with sports self-loathing, it's a perfect fit. The irony is that no sports fans in the country might want a championship more than Philly fans.

And yet, here is a title that is likely to go unmatched in baseball history. Forget Ripken's Ironman streak or DiMaggio's hit streak or the Yankees' number of titles or even the Home Run Record.

Other teams might yet reach the magical "10,000" mark, but by then, the Phillies will have extended their dominance. Congratulations.

MLB Stud: Dodgers win 11th straight. (YES, YES: IN SAN FRANCISCO. Thank you to all the people who pointed out the lack of clarity on this. As one Dodger fan emailed, "If only...")

MLB Dud: Ichiro pegged in the knee by Verlander (unintentionally). The downside of that bajillion dollar deal he signed last week is the hold-your-breath status for every at-bat that he might get hurt.

MLB Roids: Jason Giambi wasn't asked about other players. Or so they're leaking.

Sheffield vs. Torre, Cont'd: There is a middle way through this thicket of racial tension. Sheffield could have FELT like Torre was treating him differently because he was black without Torre actually being a racist.

Joltin' Joe's Journal: Steiner Sports will put 2,500 pages of DiMaggio's journal writing up for auction. What would you pay for a random, insignificant page? (Probably not enough.)

Kobe Blockbuster? Nah. The hot rumor is that an announcer's slip of the tongue means that Kobe will be traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol and Mike Miller. I think it's bunk, and Kobe would never agree to it. If he goes anywhere, he has got to go to the East. (Now that they've got Vince Carter locked up, why don't the Nets dangle Carter and Krstic for Kobe? Oh, they're too busy turning down other deals.)

More Non-Trades: The Nets reportedly passed on trading Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic and Jason Collins to the Pacers for Jermaine O'Neal. Hmm...

NBA Summer League: Well, the fantasy matchup between Durant's Sonics and Oden's Blazers happened without either guy taking the court. But Jeff Green used the stage to make his own impression: 32 points and 12 rebounds in a Sonics loss. Maybe Durant should be the team's "other" rookie sensation...

More Sunday stars from NBA Summer: Demetris Nichols 23 pts, Dominic McGuire 18 pts (Von Wafer: 42 pts)

As the Vegas Summer League closes up, my top storyline wasn't the pro debuts of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. (If anything, Durant seemed to have trouble scoring at anything close to a reasonable FG percentage.)

The story I always enjoy is about the second-round draft picks who already look like absolute steals. A few stood out: DJ Strawberry, Demetris Nichols and Dominic McGuire.

However, other first-round picks did look great. In this order, my First-Team All-First-Round-Pick Summer All-Stars: Aaron Brooks, Marco Belinelli, Rodney Stuckey, Al Thornton and Javaris Critteton.

(A few younger non-rookies foreshadowed breakout seasons ahead, including Randy Foye, Amir Johnson, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge and Von Wafer, who ended the Vegas summer league with a 42-point explosion.)

NASCAR: Tony Stewart wins, finally.

Copa America: Brazil upends Argentina, 3-0.

Double-amputee track star DQ'ed: Not for using prosthetics against fully able-bodied runners, but for leaving his lane, an ironic ending to a wild story.

WNBA All-Star Game: The WNBA East can now claim to be better than MLB's National League, snapping a six-game losing streak to the West in WNBA All-Star Games.

WNBA signs TV deal with ESPN through 2016: I wonder if part of that includes a clause where ESPN talking- (or writing-) head talent won't dis the league?

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday 07/15 A.M. (Very) Quickie

Phillies: Still stuck on Loss No. 9,999, thanks to today's Stud, Aaron Rowand, who went 4-for-4 with a HR leading the Phils past the Cards.

Artest, Jackson suspended 7 games each: David Stern taking a page from NFL Commish Roger Goodell, banning them for off-court problems.

Yankees won't bid on A-Rod: So, naturally, everyone thinks he'll join the Red Sox, once they dump Schilling and Lowell's contracts.

NBA Summer: Javaris Crittenton was the high-scorer among rookies on Saturday, racking up 28. Corey Brewer went for 18 pts and 11 reb.

But Suns second-rounder DJ Strawberry continues to be a summer revelation, scoring 27 points and adding 8 assists.

NBA Free Agency: Of the two big men signed yesterday among East wannabe contenders, Jamal Magloire helps the Nets far more than Joe Smith helps the Bulls.

Must-Read: One of my favorite newspaper sports columnists, Selena Roberts of the NY Times, has a column today on "iFans" like the ones who busted Oklahoma football. But while Roberts properly tweaks university NCAA compliance officers for poor work, she (unsurprisingly) neglects to add that fans on message boards are also doing a better job covering (and uncovering) scandal at the college level than... mainstream media sports reporters and columnists. Here's the link (but it's subscription-only unfortunately).

-- D.S.