Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday 12/15 (Very) Quickie

Appalachian State: "DynAAsty!" Three straight college football I-AA titles, capping a dream season where App State beat Michigan in Ann Arbor and never looked back. Sure would look good in, say, the ACC.

Michigan meets with West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez: Now THIS would be a hire worth waiting for. I thought he wasn't interested, but I guess he is.

This either ends with Michigan landing the absolute best coach available on the market (meaning: not Carroll, Stoops or Meyer) or yet another humiliating defeat for AD Bill Martin.

MLB Hot Stove: A's trade Dan Haren to the D'backs for a bunch of prospects. Doesn't it feel like Oakland could have done a little better? Meanwhile, Arizona's 1-2 punch of Haren and Webb (or is that Webb and Haren) is the best pair of top-of-rotation starters in the NL.

More NL West: Is Jim Edmonds headed to San Diego?

Celtics set team record for home record to start a season: Given the history of the franchise, that's saying something pretty impressive.

MLB Mitchell Report, Cont'd: Doesn't it already feel like everyone (except hysterics and cranks) have kind of moved on?

NHL: Says it doesn't have a PED problem. (Psst: EVERY sport has a PED problem, don't kid yourself. Hockey is so irrelevant they can't even desperately attach themselves to the sports-wide steroid problem correctly.)

CFB Coaching Carousel: Tennessee OC David Cutcliffe to Duke. At least he will provide a little sizzle. And, hey, in the lightweight ACC, you never know. For the Blue Devils, a 4-win season would be cause for celebration. (6 wins and bowl-eligibility? A dream season. Wow: With expectations like that, it sure beats the SEC.)

CBB: Villanova can score. Keep that in mind when you're filling out your brackets in March.

College Soccer: Wake Forest vs. Ohio State for the men's title. You know how I feel about Ohio State teams in men's college championship games. (Maybe because they aren't playing a team from the SEC, the Buckeyes will actually have a chance to win. Kidding!)

-- D.S.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday 12/14 A.M. Quickie:
Mitchell Report Defines an MLB Era

Today's Names To Know: Uh, Every Name That Came Up in George Mitchell's Report? Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, George Mitchell, Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, Mario Williams, Sage Rosenfels, Appalachian State, Kobe Bryant and More.

Start with the biggie: Roger Clemens. Layer in former World Series hero Andy Pettitte. Throw in an ex-MVP, Miguel Tejada. Or an "all-time" record-holder like Eric Gagne.

The only thing more fascinating than the lurid thrill of reading the names listed in the Mitchell Report was the range of the names themselves:

Stars. Superstars. Journeymen. Old Hands. Young Studs. Hitters. Pitchers. Infielders. Outfielders. Catchers. Starters. Relievers. In short: Everyone.

What a fitting bookend (or doorstop, in the case of the 400-plus-page report) to MLB's Steroid Era that Mitchell's report covered all bases (despite seeming to use only three sources -- BALCO, Radomski and a handful of individual interviews).

It is a reminder: The Steroid Era was everywhere. It touched every team and -- quite likely -- every GAME played.

The names included in the report are given a linguistic asterisk: "Mitchell Report" will be attached to the player's name forever, the mirror image of "Hall of Famer So-and-So" or "World Series star So-and-So." Now it is: "So-and-So, who was named in baseball's infamous Mitchell Report...." It is first-paragraph-of-the-obituary material.

Roger Clemens is the headliner: The greatest pitcher of the era, a cheater. I said this yesterday: That the greatest pitcher and greatest hitter of our generation were both cheaters says all you need to know about the Steroid Era.

What is the impact? Will it cost active players a suspension in 2008? Will it cost sure-fire Hall of Famers a first-ballot induction?

(Personally, I don't think it should. Not when it is so obvious that the entire playing field was tilted – if you think this is the extent of the cheating, you are naive or a fool. The many, many others escaped outing only because of the obstructions in the way of the fact-finding.)

More importantly, this is a statistically significant sample size that goes further than anything before it to prove the theory we all knew all along: The entire era was enhanced – bloated – with cheating.

I feel no need to penalize the listed players any more than the public humiliation – the permanent stain – of being cited in the Mitchell Report.

Just as certain as I am that cheating will continue – whether it is the untraceable HGH or whatever the new new drug ends up being in any particular year. It is arguable that the Mitchell Report doesn't signal the end of the Steroid Era, but simply its next Era.

If anything, I feel badly for the players who competed on the level – however many (or few) that might have been. (Let's not get into what was likely those players' rampant amphetamines abuse. Not against the rules, but enough against the spirit of the game that MLB eventually outlawed them.)

The "Mitchell Players," as they may come to be known -- a shorthand of a remarkable (and remarkably diverse) roster of an "All-Star All-Steroid Team" -- sealed their own fate when they made their original choice.

More on Mitchell fallout:

- "Collective failure" is a nice summation – but did it really take all that time and money to figure that out? Fans already knew it.

- Kirk Radomski: Speaking of names etched in history...

- "Call to action": Bud Selig appeared to react decisively, but the proof will be in the actions, not the words. Of the active players named, who will be suspended and for how many games?

- Don Fehr can't win by continuing to defend the status quo; the players' union utterly failed by not taking a more active role in this.

- In general, George Mitchell is getting very positive reviews. As expected, Mitchell's connection to the Red Sox (he's a director) has been brought up – more Yankees than Red Sox made the list.

- Frank Thomas should be credited with speaking to Mitchell. Presuming he was clean (and I do), will history remember him as the Steroid Era's "Greatest Clean Hitter?" (Probably not: That will go to Ken Griffey. But certainly The Big Hurt will be right up there.)

- David Justice, on the other hand, comes off as a bit more of a jerk: He talked with the Mitchell Commission, naming names, then it turns out HE was one of the names. Did he forget to mention that to them?

- Did Barry Bonds get advanced warning of MLB steroid tests in 2003? Well, no wonder he never failed a steroid test.

- Don't let the media off the hook: Keep in mind that baseball writers turned a blind eye to what they knew (or at least suspected) what was going on and were complicit in creating the Steroid Era.

- I guess we have a set of dates for the Steroid Era: 1988-2006. That's a lot of baseball -- most of your lives as aware fans, I would bet. That's crazy to think about.

(And just think: The report didn't even touch the issue of amphetamines, which have been around far longer, touched way more players and impacted way more games than PEDs.)

- Think this is behind us? Three words: H.G.H. There's no testing for it, and there's no reason to believe players aren't using it en masse.

(Painting with a broad brush? Really: After reading the report, the only thing you can really know is that PEDs are ingrained in the fabric of the game.)

- Roger Clemens: I will end with his name, because even more than Mitchell, Selig, Fehr, Radomski or any other, he is the name that defines the Mitchell Report. I am intrigued at how this impacts him.

Certainly he is as tarnished as Bonds, though I doubt fans will have the chance to jeer him in the same way they jeered Bonds (and I'm not even sure they would if they had the chance).

Clemens appears to have been cheating even longer than Bonds did, with even greater rewards coming to him for the effort.

Clemens is still a first-ballot Hall of Famer (as is Bonds), but his HOF plaque should be every bit as transparent as Bonds' should be:

"The greatest of his generation, but had to cheat to get there."

Must-read opinions:
Leitch at Deadspin.
Mottram at Sporting Blog.
Bois at Dugout/Fanhouse.
Silver at BP Unfiltered. Commenters.

Very quickly, everything else:

NFL This Weekend: It's all about Pats-Jets, which should be entertaining if only to see how unmercifully Bill Belichick destroys Eric Mangini. The 20-something spread is nothing; I'll say 40-plus.

(Update: As correctly pointed out in the comments, weather will play a big factor. But, to me, that just means the Jets will be shut out. You really think that the Pats can't score 5 TDs? Maybe "40" is a stretch, but 28-0? 35-0? Hardly, even in the bad weather.)

Oh, there was a game last night? Texans beat the Broncos, effectively eliminating any slim chance the Broncos had of making the playoffs.

Mario Williams (career-high 3.5 sacks) affirms that the Texans were probably right to pick him over Reggie Bush.

Sage Rosenfels re-affirms his place near the top of the list of backup QBs in this, the Year of the Backup QB.

This Weekend's Picks (Home in ALL CAPS)
Bengals over 49ERS
BROWNS over Bills
CHIEFS over Titans
Packers over RAMS
Ravens over DOLPHINS (0-16 Watch!)
PATRIOTS over Jets (19-0 Watch!)
SAINTS over Cards
BUCS over Falcons
Seahawks over PANTHERS
Colts over RAIDERS
COWBOYS over Eagles
CHARGERS over Lions
GIANTS over Redskins
VIKINGS over Bears (Playoff Destiny)

CFB I-AA Playoff Championship: Appalachian State vs. Delaware. App State is going for its third-straight I-AA title, confirming they are a "DynAAsty."

(Enterprising students who want to take that phrase and turn it into a T-shirt if/when App State wins, give me the credit – and a slice of the revenue!)

It would be a perfect bookend to a storybook season in I-AA that began when App State waltzed into the Big House and beat then-No. 5 Michigan, and followed with plenty of I-AA wins over I-A teams – not to mention a new rule where worthy I-AA teams could be ranked in the I-A Top 25.

Pick: App State.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Is this the weekend that UCLA will hire Norm Chow? Meanwhile, did Duke offer Tennessee assistant David Cutcliffe its head-coaching job? (And will he take it?)

NBA: Kobe and the Lakers are on a roll; they won their 4th straight AND beat the Spurs.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday 12/13 A.M. Quickie:
It's All About the Mitchell Report

Today's Names to Know: George Mitchell, Bud Selig, Whoever Is Named In the Mitchell Report (All 60-80 of You!), Bobby Petrino, Eric Mangini, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, Mark Prior, Glen Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Marion Jones and More!

Mitchell Report here.
The rumor-leaked list from this morning is somewhat wack. Here's Leitch's live-blog of the Mitchell press conference -- plus notes from the report's findings -- at Deadspin.

UPDATE: I don't think this "leaked" list was exhaustively right or complete. (For example: Pujols' name wasn't in the actual report, but was on the list.) Gotta love Internet rumors!

UPDATE: Mitchell Watch "Naming Names": It has begun. Clemens headlining the list?
That is a biggie (but -- come on -- hardly a surprise to anyone).

How appropriate for a generation to be historically remembered as the "Steroid Era" that the greatest hitter AND the greatest pitcher were both cheaters? It's fitting, if nothing else.

MLB Doomsday: Mitchell Report out TODAY
, with a news conference at 2 p.m. ET. This is the biggest story of the month, of the baseball offseason and -- depending on the results of the report and the subsequent fall-out -- the biggest story of the year. (Even if, down deep, fans don't REALLY care about steroids, PED-related cheating, no matter how much the media or Congress wans them to.)

The money quote? "Serious drug culture… from top to bottom."

Yes, that's severe, but is it really a surprise? It shouldn't be/won't be to any fan who has been following baseball (or any sport) over the last decade (or more).

But, really, it's all about The Names. Names. Names. Names. 60-80 names, according to the AP, including MVPs and All-Stars.

Who makes the list? How big are the stars? Who is still playing? What will happen to them? What will MLB do about it? (See Fanhouse's Pat Lackey.)

And what is the damage control: By MLB, by the players named, by the union, by everyone.

If both MLB and players are unhappy with the reports' results (as reports indicate they are/will be), that probably is a signal that the Mitchell Commission did about as good of a job as they could have, given the constraints of the union's unhelpfulness, MLB's apprehension about looking bad and Mitchell's own known conflicts of interest.

Much much more throughout the day.

One thing: Instant access to the report online? I hope Mitchell immediately releases the entire text of the report (plus exhibits!) online as soon as he makes his presentation. This was an investigation done in the public's name, and should be appropriately transparent.

(Funny detail in the AP report this morning: The Mitchell Report won't get into amphetamine usage, which is arguably way more of an epidemic – recently and historically – than PEDs. If he did, a 304-page report (plus exhibits!) would be 3,000 pages, and 60-80 names would be more like 6000-8000 names.)

Petrino/Arkansas/Falcons, Cont'd: Two pieces of awesomeness:

(1) Jerry Jones Tampering? Did Jerry Jones not just break but obliterate the handshake agreement among NFL owners by soliciting Petrino to go to Arkansas, a school to which Jones is as intensely loyal as he is to his Cowboys? Jones admits he looked into it, but denies he helped it happen. Hard to believe.

(2) Falcons Player Bitterness: Have you see the letter that Petrino taped up to a locker announcing his departure to the team? Lawyer Milloy apparently crossed out Petrino's name and put "Coward." Sweet. It would appear that Falcons players feel a little ticked off; I think that in retrospect, they'll be glad he's gone and replaced with a real NFL coach, not a college wannabe.

Given how much the players obviously disliked the guy, the level of vocal unhappiness coming out from players in the wake of this story is curious: Obviously, they are taking advantage of the opportunity to vent their season-long frustrations by publicly ripping the guy (and not without reason); but isn't the best response simply: "We're so happy to see him go; he was terrible."

In this whole mess, Arkansas fans come out the big winners (until, Petrino critics would insist, he leaves them unexpectedly for a better job). Petrino comes out as the biggest villain. Falcons owner Arthur Blank comes out actually looking sympathetic. And Falcons fans just get everyone else's well-deserved pity on a truly brutal season.

(Speaking of losers, I can't believe I ever thought Petrino would be a good fit. Thanks to the commenters who called me out, throwing my own words back at me. It's a rule: College coaches with no substantial previous NFL coaching experience can't coach pro; pro coaches with no substantial previous college coaching experience can't coach college.)

Pats-Jets Lead-Up and Jets' own cheating: I guess I'm not outraged that Eric Mangini taped the Pats (it sounds like it was fairly benign and regular end-zone taping, which the team got permission to do virtually everywhere from every team).

I'm more outraged that while Mangini was outing the Pats' cheating earlier this season, he wasn't forthcoming that the Jets were involved in their own (legitimate) taping operation.

That opens up the false-equivalency of "Well, the Jets cheated, too!" from Pats fans, when, in fact, the two tapings weren't particularly similar – from all accounts, the Jets' taping was S.O.P. (if a sketchy fit for this storyline); the Pats' taping remains cheating.

(Given the technological improvements, what if the NFL made any form of videotaping OK under the rules and encouraged teams to be creative about how they stole – and defended – their signals?)

MLB Trade Mania: Miguel Tejada to the Astros for 5 solid prospects. There were high hopes when Tejada got to the Orioles (and there were several moments through the years when he could have been traded for much more), but it just never worked out. The rebuilding O's get cheap young talent; the Astros get a front-line superstar.

(So: Given the timing of the trade, who wants to wager that Tejada is among the names listed on the Mitchell Report?)

MLB Free Agency: Aaron Rowand to the Giants for 5Y/$60M. He isn't just the last remaining free-agent stud to be found, but he actually gives the Giants a new "face" after the Barry Bonds Era. And the two faces couldn't be more different. For one, Rowand's head is much, much smaller.

Cubs let Mark Prior go: You don't have to be particularly old to say, "Remember when Prior was going to be IT?" It will be intriguing to see where he ends up… and if he can come remotely close to recovering his career. (Meanwhile, the Cubs officially signed Fukudome.)

NBA: Knicks bottom out? Knicks lose to Sonics at the Garden. Sure, the Knicks' humiliating blowout loss to the Celtics a few weeks ago was bad, but at least that was on the road to the East's best team. Losing to the woeful Sonics in New York is even worse. Hey, maybe Isiah will blame the Garden fans for Kevin Durant racking up 30.

More: The Sixers have won 4 games in a row... Did the Celtics' "Big Three" just add a "Big Baby?" Glen Davis had 16 and 9 in another Boston win… I was at the Pepsi Center last night and got a chance to see Carmelo score 32 en route to a big Nuggets win over the Hornets. I still think that AI is my favorite player to watch in person, but the burly Carmelo on a rampage to the basket is a pretty intense sight…

CBB: Ohio U. beats Maryland. Another mid-major notches a win over a "power conference" team.

CFB Coaching Carousel: I love that the Duke football head-coaching job was put on the Duke University job-listings page online. Almost makes me think I want to apply for it.

Marion Jones' name stricken from Olympic records: The triple-crown of Olympic ignominy is (1) Taking away the medals, (2) Erasing your name from the record book, and (3) Your overall reputation is tainted as "cheater" forever.

Today's Must-Read: Darren Rovell's predictions for 2008 for the year in sports business. Great stuff in here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday 12/12 A.M. Quickie:
Petrino, Petrino, Petrino and More!

Today's Names to Know: Bobby Petrino, Kosuke Fukudome, LeBron James, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, Jamie Mottram, Twitter, College Bowl Mania, More!

Bobby Petrino quits the Falcons to go to... Arkansas? Wow. That's huge. He lasted all of one season in the NFL. And, boy, was it one shitty season. (He didn't even last the entire season.)

First, that's kind of dickish on Petrino's part. If he didn't want to leave college, he never should have taken Arthur Blank's millions. (Fans all saw the college-to-pro failure coming a mile away.)

Meanwhile, by leaving Louisville last year the way he did, he totally screwed over Brian Brohm and a team that had national-title aspirations, but ended up a middling 6-6.

He moves to an Arkansas team that is losing superstar Darren McFadden and is coming off years of being a run-first offense; Petrino specializes in high-octane passing offenses. It will be an interesting transformation for a team in need of one in the post-McFadden era.

(Wow: How much of a chump does former Arkansas QB prodigy Mitch Mustain look like now? Instead of, say, playing QB for Petrino, who developed Brian Brohm into a Top 10 NFL Draft pick, he'll battle for PT at USC.)

And the SEC gets yet another ridiculously high-profile coach. In the SEC West alone, that's Bobby Petrino, Les Miles, Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville, Houston Nutt and Sylvester Croom. Wow.

Obligatory Michigan angle: Hmm, Petrino would have looked awfully good as the new head coach at Michigan. And yet he was signed to coach Arkansas. Yet another humiliation (and failure) for Michigan and its AD, "Buffoon Bill" Martin.

Speaking of which...

Les Miles-to-Michigan rumor flares up, then is quashed by Miles himself, who said he was only "helping" the search. If he was so helpful, why didn't he tell them Petrino could've been available?

(Wasn't it in Miles' best interests to make sure Petrino didn't end up in the SEC... in Miles' own division, no less?)

News flash to increasingly stupefied Michigan fans: Miles ain't coming back. No good coach is coming. Your top candidates are unqualified assistants and a heartily unqualified guy from Ball State.

MLB Hot Stove: Cubs get Kosuke Fukudome, the high-profile outfielder from Japan.

Meanwhile, MLB gets a sneak-peek of the Mitchell Report: Would they leak any of it to try to mitigate damage control? No word... yet.

AP CFB All-America Team: Tebow is the QB, McFadden is the RB (a two-timer, along with Long, Dorsey and Laurinitis). Texas Tech freshman WR sensation Michael Crabtree made the team, as did former walk-on Jordy Nelson, a WR from Kansas State.

Nice to see the uber-talented Jeremy Maclin make the team as an all-purpose player. On defense, nice to see Kansas' Aqib Talib make it (he should have won the Thorpe), along with Arizona's Antoine Cason (who did win the Thorpe).

Big Ten moving to a 13-week schedule: Wow, it's almost like they were... envious that the leagues with a conference title game got all the juice while the Big Ten season ended weeks before. No!

(Surprise, surprise: Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr were the only two coaches who supported keeping the season as-is.)

NBA: David Stern won't punish the Knicks or Isiah Thomas. That's too bad. Stern was fans' last best hope to see the team rid itself of Isiah and turn the corner.

(Isiah on the Knicks' troubles as the fans' fault: I haven't talked about this this week, which is my bad. What a story: Yeah, blame it on the fans. That has to qualify for the stupidest thing to say of 2007.)

NFL: Mike Ditka will get rid of his fund to help NFL alums, after it was uncovered that his charity didn't, y'know, give out any.

More NFL: If Rex Grossman is done for the season, is he done in Chicago, too? His contract is up, and he might just need a change of scenery. Wow, couldn't the Jags use him to bring a little FLA-vor?

Meanwhile, the Bears HAVE to be thinking "franchise QB" with a Top 10 pick in a draft loaded with great QBs. (Unfortunately, as many as 5 teams ahead of them could use a new franchise QB, too.)

CBB: Southern Illinois beats newly minted Top 25 St. Mary's in a terrific non-conference game between two big mid-major programs. One of those "Remember that in March" games.

NBA Stud of the Night: LeBron James... 6th Man of the Year?

TJ Ford injury: Here's to a full and healthy recovery to one of the best injury-comeback stories in sports of the decade.

Sports Media: Jamie Mottram has been at Yahoo Sports running their blogs and social media programming, and the results are starting to show: Yahoo Sports suddenly has one of the best NBA blogs around, hubbed by two characters you need in a great multi-voice blog product:

Kelly Dwyer, whose fanatically detailed knowledge of the NBA has been on display for a while as a TrueHoop fill-in, and Rod Benson, who is the NBA D-League's version of Gilbert Arenas and a rising star. Definitely worth keeping an eye (or RSS feed) on. Great start, guys.

CFB: Final fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year is open until this Saturday, December 15. The 10 finalists are listed for I-A, with 5 finalists each for 1-AA, DII and DIII. Go to to vote (and, while you're there, check out the special blog I did with them).

Twitter Experiment: So I've been dabbling with Twitter off and on for the last however long, and I'm finally going to give it a real effort, which will hopefully supplement the signature morning post. If you are into Twitter, see the link to the side to get the subscriber info.

College Bowl Mania: Don't forget to use the link on the right to sign up for the College Bowl Pick 'Em game (through Group name, as always: Daily Quickie Readers. And, as always, no password needed; it's a public group. Hope to see you in there!

(I just made my picks yesterday. I'm fine on the picks themselves; I'm sketchy on the "confidence" ranking. If I'm so sure LSU is going to wax Ohio State, shouldn't I give that my highest confidence rank and roll the dice?)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday 12/11 A.M. Quickie:
Vick, Brees, Conte, Hawks, CFB, More!

Today's Names to Know: Michael Vick, Roddy White, DeAngelo Hall, Drew Brees, Victor Conte, Dick Pound, David Segui, Kyle Orton, Josh Smith, Norm Chow, Jimbo Fisher, Paul Wulff, Kusuke Fukudome, Derrick Caracter, St. Mary's men's hoops, Rutgers women's hoops and More!

"Free Mike Vick" Scandal: I usually enjoy the ironic stylings of the "Free [Insert Celebrity Here]" T-shirt...

...But Roddy White's TD celebration -- flashing a "Free Mike Vick" T-shirt on Monday Night Football in Atlanta on the day Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison -- was kind of pathetic...

...And sure to be the sensationalized storyline of the day. (Now: If ESPN had Mike Vick do the celebrity introduction of the starters, now THAT would have been kind of must-see clever.)

This isn't controversial: Vick isn't wrongly jailed. He pled guilty! He voluntarily – VOLUNTARILY – went to prison... early!

Let's be clear: The "Free [Celebrity]" T-shirt is either to be used ironically for B-level celebs who were recently arrested (hopefully on relatively benign charges) or for imprisoned people who are, y'know, truly INNOCENT. That ain't Mike Vick.

So here's a big ol' STFU: To Roddy "Free Mike Vick" White and DeAngelo Hall, that noted poster guy of sportsmanship who sported "MV7" on his eyeblack and carried a Vick poster onto the field during pregame introductions. How about a T-shirt "Free Common Sense!"

Meanwhile, the Falcons were crushed by the Saints. Don't blame the Vick-sentencing distraction; the Falcons are just plain bad.

That 3-TD, 328-yard performance from Drew Brees is what fans had expected to see all year from the Saints offense. Maybe next year.... (By the way: If they could rack up that kind of offense without Reggie Bush, is it worth asking how much value he really adds?)

More importantly: How many fantasy playoff games were won in the final hours of the week as your opponent had Brees or Marques Colston to come from behind and steal a win?

Pats-Jets: Biggest Vegas line ever? That's quite a statement about the Pats AND the Jets. Really: Who the hell would take the Jets and the points?

Steroid Scandal: Victor Conte and Dick Pound, together at last. Now THAT is an awkward conversation I want to see streamed live online.

They meet tomorrow in New York City, and Conte promises he will "name names" to Pound, who probably can't wait to tell the media about them.

Meanwhile, David Segui reaffirmed he used PEDs, but said he refused to talk to the Mitchell Commission out of solidarity with the players.

I suppose it's not an easy choice: Dedication to fellow players over dedication to the sport -- and where do the fans stand on even wanting to know the whole story? It's unclear.

Bears starting QB... Kyle Orton: No, seriously. Which fantasy owner in the playoffs will be bold enough to pick up Orton and win the weekend?

NBA: Turnaround Team of the Year? How about the Hawks, who are a respectable (and playoff-qualifying) 10-10 and just beat the Magic last night, behind Josh Smith's 25 and 16.

Meanwhile, what could be for the Heat: 6-15 record, but they just beat the Suns, behind Dwyane Wade's 31 pts, 6 ast and 3 steals. (I know all the support is behind LeBron for MVP, but why not Wade?)

CFB: So you're telling me that if Bobby Bowden retired today, Florida State fans would rather have Jimbo Fisher than, say, Mark Richt or Rich Rodriguez? I find that extremely hard to believe.

Meanwhile, is UCLA about to hire Norm Chow? Beyond his status as one of the great offensive minds in football, he would be the first Asian-American to be a CFB head coach. Progress in minority hiring.

Washington State hires Eastern Washington's Paul Wulff after he led EWU to the I-AA playoffs. Gotta love the alumni connection.

MLB Hot Stove: Kosuke Fukudome is headed to MLB, but where will the heralded Japanese OF end up? The Padres are rumored to have a huge offer on the table, and many are talking about the Cubs as the leaders for his services. If Matsuzaka's nickname was "Dice-K," I look forward to the nickname creativity with "Fukudome."

Nats get catcher LoDuca: After trading the Mets their catcher, Brian Schneider, the Nationals picked up the Mets' catcher, Paul LoDuca.

CBB: Louisville suspends Derrick Caracter indefinitely. I guess you could say he had a "Caracter issue."

Meanwhile, Andy Katz beat me to it yesterday, but not before a reader emailed to say: What about Rhode Island? Mid-major team to watch.

More Mid-Major Mania: St. Mary's makes the AP Top 25 for the first time since 88-89. Keep an eye on them as a potential first-round Tournament spoiler.

Women's College Hoops: Rutgers Watch. "America's Women's Basketball Team" notched another big win, beating No. 12 Cal for their 4th win over a Top 15 team this season. (I'll lay low on Rutgers until Feb. 5 and 11, when they play UConn and Tennessee in back-to-back mega-games.)

New Deadspin CFB Post about an exclusionary college football playoff system: Mostly positive emails (for once), but a lot of Pac-10 and Big Ten die-hards who claimed that a 13-0 Rose Bowl champ would trump whoever won the playoff in the final poll tally.

But, no: You're still thinking of the old "mythical" model, where being undefeated matters; that's the beauty of the playoff system:

If one of the 8 playoff teams in my "Coalition of the Winning" beats THREE Top 8 teams in three weeks en route to winning the playoff, they could have 0 losses, 1 loss, 2 losses or any number of losses and STILL earn the championship title.

(What: You think that the AP will split the title for your Rose Bowl winner? Not after a decade of griping about the need for a playoff; the media voters would look silly to suddenly abandon a playoff champ.)

The point of the plan is this: Call the Pac-10's bluff by creating a playoff, making them the bad guy by their choosing to opt out of it.

If the Pac-10, Big Ten and Rose Bowl are the only things standing in the way of a playoff, simply work around them.

Navel-gazing name-checking: After my NPR name-check last Friday and my Dugout name-check over the weekend, I'm on a roll. Here's one from Northwestern football blogger Lake The Posts, who hands out his year-end blog awards... with a special one for me that you all will totally appreciate.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday 12/10 A.M. Quickie:
Pats, Fins, Tebow, 1-AA, Vick, More!

Today's Names to Know: Patriots, Dolphins, Tom Brady, Sage Rosenfels, Tim Tebow, Darren McFadden, Armanti Edwards, Michael Vick, Eric Gagne, Chris Bosh, Dayton hoops, Paul Johnson and More!

NFL: It's coming down to perfection. The Pats are 13-0, marching to 19-0. The Dolphins are 0-13, stumbling to 0-16. Except for "your team" (whether they are real or the fantasy version), everything else in the middle is rather irrelevant.

Why? Because every time the Pats take on one of the so-called "contenders" of the AFC, they destroy them. Yesterday, they throttled the Steelers, with Tom Brady throwing for 400 yards and 4 TDs. (I was shocked to hear the Pats were actually motivated by the Steelers' so-called "guarantee." Really? They can't self-motivate at this point?)

So between Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the Chargers, the Pats have already beaten every other division leader in the AFC, not to mention the Cowboys, representing the best of the NFC. The Pats are left to compete with history.

Looking ahead to next week, the Pats host the Jets in the highly anticipated follow-up game to the Pats' cheating incident at the beginning of the season. Given that it was the Jets who turned in the Pats to the NFL, it could be "mercy rule" territory.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins were crushed by the Bills, putting them one loss next week to the Ravens from tying the legendary 1976 Bucs for futility. (It won't matter if Miami can win one of its final two games, but the symbolism of 0-14 will be strong enough.)

More NFL: Three games to play in the regular season and playoff jockeying is beginning to take some shape. (Again: Not that it matters this season. Whoopee: Your team made the playoffs. They're not beating winning the Super Bowl, unless you're a Pats fan.)

Packers clinch NFC North, not that that should qualify Brett Favre for something like SI Sportsman of the Year (Hunh? What? REALLY?)...

The Vikings are in 6th in the NFC playoff chase and hold their playoff fate in their hands. (Didn't I take a ton of abuse before the season started for picking them to make the playoffs?)

So do the Browns: If the season ended today, Cleveland, amazingly, would have the 6th spot in the AFC playoffs (NO one saw that coming).

Cowboys come from behind to roll along to 12-1 (see above for why this doesn't matter in the "Super Bowl champs" scheme of things)...

If the Jags played in the NFC, they would be considered strong contenders to win the conference...

Milestone Watch: Peyton Manning became the fifth QB ever to reach 300 career TD passes. Hardly a stretch to say he'll end his career as the all-time leader.

Fantasy Hindsight: Were you smart enough to start Sage Rosenfels? Come on: It was only the fantasy playoffs! (Related: Oh, great, NOW Jay Cutler throws 4 TDs; where was that when before I was eliminated from playoff contention?)

Heisman: See yesterday's post for my (over-enthusiastic) comments about Tim Tebow winning the Heisman. In summary (and a bit more measured): Breaking the "Class Ceiling" for every great young player who came before or will come afterward is the highlight.

It also makes for fascinating tracking over the next two years: Between his Offensive MVP role on a national title team a year ago and his Heisman Trophy this season, Tebow has put himself in a unique "all-time" historical position -- IF he can win more Heismans, more national titles... or both.

(Meanwhile, congrats to Darren McFadden for his back-to-back runner-up finishes. He is one of the greatest talents fans have ever seen take the field. Can't wait to see how he looks in a Patriots uniform. Cripes: It'll be a joke.)

I think we will find out later, with some hindsight, that this Heisman ballot was special: An all-time Top 10 college QB and an all-time Top 10 college RB.

Can Tebow win a second straight Heisman next year? Remember the last player to have a shot: Matt Leinart was competing with Vince Young and his own electrifying teammate Reggie Bush, whom he eventually lost to.

Who will Tebow be competing with? McFadden will be long-gone to the NFL, as will record-breaking QB Colt Brennan. On the other hand, the short list includes Pat White, Chase Daniel and Percy Harvin.

(Hmm: Like Leinart, Tebow will be competing with a dynamic title-contending dual-threat QB -- two of them, actually -- and a teammate with skills even more telegenic than his own. This is a lot like Leinart, except presumably without the dancing, virility and general douchebaggery.)

If you didn't see (or contribute to) Saturday's post about your personal favorite college football player of all time, check it out... and send in your own. It's a fascinating list we put together. (You won't be surprised who I picked, but other people's picks will amaze.)

More CFB: 1-AA Playoffs! The playoffs that most college football fans SAY they want, but when it comes time to actually watch (or even follow them from a distance), they don't follow through. Anyway...

It'll be Delaware vs. Appalachian State in the title game. What a fitting end to the season for App State, after the way they started it with that defining-moment win (or was it just ultimate foreshadowing) at Michigan.

The two-time defending 1-AA national champs (cripes, can we please lose the "FCS" label?) are one win away from an unprecedented three-peat. App QB Armanti Edwards set a 1-AA record for QBs with 313 rushing yards (including 4 rushing TDs), while throwing for 182 yards and another 3 TDs. It might just have been the most dominating performance by any player – at any level – this season in college football.

Vick Watch: Michael Vick will be sentenced today by a federal judge. The expectation is that he'll get 18 months, but you never know: Maybe the judge will go a little batty and give Vick 5 years.

(Great timing: The Falcons host the Saints on Monday Night Football; needless to say, this game won't be breaking the all-time cable viewing record that last week's Pats-Ravens did.)

MLB Hot Stove: How is Eric Gagne worth $10 million a year? The Brewers overpaid... Milton Bradley is bringing his Funhouse of Crazy to the Rangers... LaTroy Hawkins is a great pick-up for the Yankees, who really needed the middle-relief help... Legal experts say Barry Bonds could play the entire 2008 season without having to deal with a trial (it would still be hanging over his head). Any takers?... Thanks for the name-check, Dugout boys. Hilarious as ever.

NBA Weekend Recap: Shots fired at Jamal Tinsley? Yikes... Sunday: Chris Bosh came back from injury to have 21 and 10 in a Raptors win over the Rockets... Saturday: After racking up NBA Rookie of the Month in November, Al Horford may be on his way to a second straight ROY award... Friday: Wild scoring battle between Kevin Durant (35 points) and Michael Redd (41 points)... Fantasy Waiver Watch: Rudy Gay.

College Hoops Recap: Congrats to Dayton on a huge legitimizing win over No. 11 Louisville... Even without Eric Gordon, Indiana crushed struggling Kentucky... Duke and Kansas both roll at home over "name" non-conference opponents (Michigan and DePaul, respectively)... Intriguing: Michigan State went to BYU and beat the Cougars...

CFB Coaching Carousel: Navy's Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech. If he had just waited a few more days, he probably could have gotten a Michigan offer (and would have done a hell of a job with it, too). Doesn't going to Georgia Tech feel a little like Johnson short-sold himself?

Meanwhile, UCLA needs to hire Norm Chow: UCLA is apparently down to a short list that includes Steve Mariucci (ugh), Boise State's Chris Petersen (hmm) and Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow (absolutely the most inspired pick).

More College: Congrats to USC, whose women's soccer team defeated Florida State for the NCAA title.

Obituary: Jon Barkan, 39. A rarely cited part of my professional biography was a 1-year stint I had at (then I was based in SI's office in New York, but the main office was out of CNN HQ in Atlanta, with a really terrific, talented bunch of people. One of them was Jon Barkan, a huge personality and true sports fan -- who passed away late last week of a heart attack at the tragically young age of 39, survived by a wife and three young children. Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday 12/09 Quickie: Tebow Heisman!

Tim Tebow wins the Heisman: Can I just point out that back in late August when I ranked Tim Tebow on my preseason Heisman short list -- No. 5 overall -- I took SO much abuse. And it was SO worth it.

I have earned some capital on this issue, and I'm going to spend it, offering at least one more aggressive opinion about Tebow:

Can he eventually -- or does he instantly -- crack that Top 25 College Football Players of All Time list? Between his key role on a national champion team last year (arguably Offensive MVP) and his unprecedented success this year both on the field (sick stats, including the historic "20/20") and off the field (first sophomore to win the Heisman), I think it's not unreasonable to put him there now -- and certainly put him on the watch list for later. (Based on immediate reaction from readers, you all think I'm on crack for this.)

With either a national title or a second Heisman next season (or both), he would move into the Top 10 instantly. If he stays for his senior season, who knows?

Can Tebow end his career as the greatest college football player of all time? That's not me saying it (I already believe he's a contender), but Michael David Smith from CollegeFootballTalk (the college sibling of ProFootballTalk).

A less provocative question is whether Tebow will end up among the Top 5 college QBs of, say, the ESPN Era (since 1980). You've got Vince Young, Matt Leinart, John Elway, Danny Wuerffel, Tommie Frazier... does Tebow crack that group?

At the beginning of the season, I said Tebow played like he was the love-child of Leinart and Frazier. Would that qualify him to join the short-list of all-time-great college QBs of the last 25 years?

Meanwhile, let's praise Darren McFadden, the first player to finish as Heisman runner-up two years in a row in more than a half-century -- itself an amazing accomplishment. He also got a higher share of first-place votes this year than any runner-up in Heisman history.

Speaking of history, I think we will look back (some of us know it now) and realize that in McFadden we have just watched the best college running back since Barry Sanders, and one of the Top 5 college RBs of all time (and certainly one of the Top 5 college RBs of the ESPN Era). A commenter brought up Reggie Bush -- interesting. Bush almost doesn't count as a true running back (see his NFL career). I think Bush is the most electrifying college football player I have ever seen, but he was not a better college running back than McFadden.

Consider that: McFadden, perhaps one of the Top 5 college RBs of all time and, Tebow, perhaps one of the Top 5 college QBs of all time -- on the same Heisman ballot. (With the third-place finisher, Colt Brennan, being a QB who basically rewrote most meaningful passing records.)

Some people are already griping this was a "down year" for the Heisman. I think we'll look back and consider it to be one of its finest.

-- D.S.