Saturday, January 05, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Today's Names to Know: Wild Cards,
NFL Wild Card Weekend: The general gist: This year's NFL Wild Card round kind of sucks because the ending feels so inevitable, making the Wild Card round a bit of a dud. Now, if the Patriots lose along the way? Mayhem. But let's not speak of that until it happens, god forbid a Quickie jinx.
Click here for my picks and analysis, announced yesterday. The short version: Jags, Chargers, Seahawks, Bucs.
Roger Clemens on "60 Minutes": So it was just lidocaine and B-12? Oh THAT explains EVERYTHING. One question: Why didn't he just say that the day the Mitchell Report came out? It feels like it took him and his legal team three weeks to come up with the excuse, then busted it out.
CFB Recruiting: Not one but TWO high school All-America games – the traditional US Army-sponsored game and the new ESPN-sponsored competitor, dividing the talent, but it's double the viewing for fans waiting on those in-game commitment announcements that have come to define the event.
NFL: Warren Sapp is retiring. Future Hall of Famer. Not bad for a guy whose draft stock plummeted when sketchy rumors of his marijuana use came out on draft day. Seems so quaint now.
Bill Belichick is Coach of the Year: Obviously, just as obvious as Brady as MVP and Peterson as Offensive Rookie of the Year and Willis as Defensive Rookie of the Year. (One thing: Where was Romeo Crennel? Not even on the ballot at all?)
MLB Hot Stove: White Sox acquire versatile Nick Swisher from the A's for three of the Sox's top five prospects (per Sickels via Fanhouse). As Lackey noted, Chicago is under pressure to compete with the suddenly juggernaut Tigers and defending division champ Indians; the A's are apparently competing with the Marlins -- I just think Billy Beane enjoys pushing his Moneyball experiment to its natural limits.
NBA: The question about the Blazers was how they would respond to their long winning streak being snapped. They were pushed into 2 OT by the Bulls, but came away with a win – not something that necessarily would have happened in November.
CBB: How's the Big East this season? Unpredictable, at least to start. Villanova lost to DePaul in a fairly significant upset. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt continued its best start in program history, beating Rice and moving to 14-0.
Reading Series Hangover: Huge thanks to all the readers who came out last night to the Varsity Letters Reading Series. I got a warm reception I didn't deserve, then Will Leitch put on a fantastic show, followed by Dave Zirin, who truly put on a performance. Never met Dave before, and he's a terrific guy. I was honored to share a stage with those guys.
Politics and Sports: Longtime readers know that I am a politics junkie. It was awesome last night at the reading as lots of people there kept checking their Blackberries and cell phones to see results from
Varsity Dad: New post! And it's long(-ish)! Here's the link. All part of my commitment to keep Varsity Dad updated and fresh -- I really want to grow out the community of like-minded parents. If you have a story to add or a relevant blog post to link to (or excerpt), shoot an email with the details to varsitydad-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. (Just found out last night that Zirin is a Varsity Dad fan, which was nice to hear. I've got to work on getting him to contribute.)
DS.com Commenters have named their Sportsperson of the Year. And the winner is...
Thursday, January 03, 2008
The air of inevitability surrounding the Patriots has turned Wild Card Weekend into Wild Dud Weekend. This ain't like a few years ago when the 6-seed Steelers went on a championship run via the Wild Card.
In the AFC, it's like "Does it really matter?" Does it matter if the Jaguars beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh? Sure, it's interesting (and unprecedented) to see the Steelers lose at home to the same team twice in one season, but does it impact the winner's chances against the Patriots? Not really. Does it matter if the Chargers beat the Titans? As hot as San Diego is right now, they still have to get through the Colts before they even GET to the Pats, who already dispatched them. (And, don't forget: It's still Norv Turner.)
In the NFC, the operative phrase is: "Who cares?" Things are even bleaker, with the playoff winner considered nothing more than a straw man, a tomato can that will be -- if fans are lucky -- anticlimax to a decent Pats-Colts AFC title game and the final step in a perfect 19-0 season for the Pats. Does it matter who that 19th win is against? No.
So as for the NFC Wild Card games: Giants-Bucs? Zzz... Redskins-Seahawks? Zzz... When the ultimate outcome is all-but-predetermined, every incremental step is diminished -- particularly the Wild Card Weekend.
Jaguars over Steelers.
Chargers over Titans.
Bucs over Giants.
Seahawks over Redskins.
Your picks in the Comments and over at DSCommenters. Things get slightly more interesting next week... but not much.
Today's Names to Know: Cam Cameron, Pat White, Noel Devine, Bill Stewart, Virginia Tech, Kansas, Mike Nolan, Mavericks, Eric Gordon, Brian McNamee, Varsity Letters and More!Bill Parcells fires Cam Cameron: Now THIS will be interesting. Will Parcells look for an experienced hand or a young up-and-comer? Will he go to the Parcells family tree or raid the Cowboys (Jason Garrett?), like he did for a GM (see below). The Cameron experiment was a dud; Dolphins fans I know are ecstatic at the news. When "anyone but the current coach" is the preference over "current coach," you are in trouble as a coach.
Fiesta Bowl: West Virgina crushes
This was WVU's spread offense in all of its unstoppable glory (without longtime head coach Rich Rodriguez, mind you).
QB Pat White was spectacular: For all of the highly touted QBs throughout the rest of the bowl season -- Tebow, Brennan, Daniel -- White put on the best performance. He rushed for 150 yards, but also throwing for 176 and 2 TDs. (After the game, White threw his support behind interim head coach Bill Stewart to get the position full-time.)
And freshman sensation Noel Devine rushed for 108 yards on 13 carries (9 ypc) and 2 TDs, including a 65-yard game-capper early in the 4th to break
Orange Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs.
At the same time, I think this will draw the lowest ratings of any BCS bowl game (and that's saying something in a year as down as this one). I'm intrigued to see Todd Reesing against the Hokies' D. Pick:
Adrian Peterson is NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: A no-brainer... almost makes you wonder what the GMs of teams picking ahead of the Vikings were thinking in passing on him.
Texas RB Jamaal Charles turning pro: He's not the next Peterson, but he is right in line with the rest of the talented Big 12 running backs of recent vintage -- and certainly of this draft.
Pats-Giants was the highest-rated regular-season NFL game since 1995: That's saying something in this age of consumer fragmentation. Then again, they DID have 2.5 networks (plus the local network) to help boost the number. That said: If it was on NBC, CBS or Fox alone, it would have probably come close to the 34.5 million who watched.
(Meanwhile, the NHL Outdoor Game on Tuesday earned the highest rating for a hockey game since February 1996. Hell, they should make EVERY game a gimmicky populist event.)
More NFL: The 49ers won't fire Mike Nolan. (Which always seems to need the qualifier: "Won't fire Mike Nolan... yet." It is an inevitability that they will, if not this season then next or the year after that.)
Meanwhile, Parcells taps Cowboys scouting guru
For example: Jerry Jones loves
NBA: Mavs beat Warriors. Another exemption to my "Won't-talk-about-the-Mavs-until-the-Playoffs" rule: Unless they are playing (and beating) the Warriors, and we get the usual round of sports media folks assigning any sort of redemptive meaning to a Mavs win.
There is none: It doesn't change the Mavs' unprecedented first-round choke in the playoffs a year ago. No regular-season win will change that.
To override that meme, the Mavs don't just have to beat the Warriors in the regular season (hell, they don't just have to vanquish the Warriors in the playoffs, which STILL wouldn't change the magnitude of what happened last year); the Mavs have to win an NBA title. Don't talk to me about the Mavs until they get to the NBA Finals.
CBB: Eric Gordon had 25 in his Big Ten conference-season debut, in an
MLB: McNamee vs. Clemens. Brian McNamee's lawyers will be TiVo'ing Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes this Sunday, just in case he says anything to defame McNamee's claims about Clemens in the Mitchell Report. Then they'll sue Clemens' ass. And THEN the fun begins.
Finally, don't forget: I'll be appearing at the Varsity Letters Reading Series TONIGHT in NYC, opening up for Will Leitch and Dave Zirin. It's at Happy Ending (302 Broome) at 8 p.m. and it's FREE. Full details here. If you haven't seen my pre-game interview, check it out here, because it includes what might be the most incisive thing I have ever expressed:
It's like the people who call into Jim Rome or other sports-talk radio are like the "before" version of Charlie in "Flowers for Algernon," when he was mentally challenged. The Deadspin commenters are like the super-smart "post-drugs" version of Charlie—still fundamentally retarded, but riding a tide of brilliance—that's the daily commenting stream.
See you tonight.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Today's Names to Know: Georgia, Colt Brennan, Plus-One, Lloyd Carr, Chad Henne, Tim Tebow, Joe McKnight, Tony Temple, Fiesta Bowl, Sidney Crosby, Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian, Varsity Letters and More!
Georgia waxes Hawaii: If nothing else, this 41-10 domination affirmed that last year's Cinderella win by Boise State over Oklahoma in a BCS bowl game was an exception, not a paradigm shift (sort of like George Mason making the Final Four in hoops two years ago, followed up by last season's fairly conventional results).
Here's where things get interesting: If you thought that Hawaii was overrated all along, then this blowout was nothing more than confirmation -- even if you had Georgia ranked higher than its current No. 4. The best you can do is rank Georgia No. 2 at the end of the year, leapfrogging the Ohio State-LSU loser and
However, if you thought (or suspected or even secretly hoped) that Hawaii was actually a legit team -- you were dazzled by the unbeaten record or by Colt Brennan's stats or by June Jones constantly telling you they were -- then you have to take the drubbing Georgia gave them and seriously consider giving the Bulldogs half the national title (the AP half), particularly if you had UGA ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season (as I did).
Dud: Colt Brennan, who was brutalized. He threw 3 INTs, who was sacked 8 times and who lost 2 fumbles. Oh, and he threw for ZERO touchdowns, threw for less than half of his yards-per-game average and even suffered a TKO.
The upshot? Again: Either
The other (fictitious) upshot: "Playoff" implications. After yesterday, everyone will be talking about what a game it would have been between Georgia and USC. I see it differently:
Yesterday's results repudiate the "Plus-One" idea: Please explain how you would pick two "Plus-One" teams from Georgia, USC and the OSU-LSU winner? That doesn't even factor in Oklahoma if
Even a 4-team playoff now looks problematic: If you had picked a PRE-bowls Top 4 for a playoff and you left out either Georgia or USC (which you would have to to accommodate
More Bowl Hangover:
As a college football fan, I feel good for Lloyd Carr and I feel good for
As a Gators fan, I'm obviously frustrated by a soft defense and an otherwise-explosive offense that turned timid on two game-deciding drives late in the 4th. (But credit a fierce Michigan D with making Tim Tebow's day a tough one.)
Dominance of the Day: USC over
USC should be a consensus Top 3 team next season (but with a huge early-season game against consensus Top 3 Ohio State).
What a new year for USC: Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian are reportedly engaged (says OK! Magazine via Page Six). I expect Yahoo Sports to be providing the most comprehensive coverage of the nuptials.
Stud of the Day: Tony Temple. The Missouri RB had a Cotton Bowl record 281 yards rushing to go with 4 TDs in a Tigers win over
Comeback of the Day:
Satisfaction of the Day: Tennessee Vols fans, whose team took care of the ball and took care of a tough bowl opponent in Wisconsin (meanwhile, they got a nice bit of schadenfreude watching the Gators lose to Michigan).
Bowls Tonight: Fiesta!
Instead they draw
Oklahoma is motivated by a return to their field of ignominy from a year ago. Pick:
NHL Winter Classic: Very cool (and cold!) The TV ratings still have to be counted, but the game set an all-time attendance record of 71,217, which is astonishing (if not surprising, given the novelty of the game and the passion of the fans in the
I tuned in from time to time: All in all, a huge success for the NHL. They learn a valuable lesson: When you are a "niche" sport, relevancy comes in one-game or one-day or one-moment bursts, not over the course of a sustained season.
(By the way, that's partly why I constantly refer to the NBA as now qualifying as a "niche" sport: They have the Christmas Day game, the Finals...maybe, the Draft and the occasional intriguing mid-playoff must-see matchup, but those are few and far between. And that's it, as far as appeal to casual fans goes.)
NFL: Chargers GM AJ Smith gets a 5-year extension. He'll outlast Norv Turner, that's for sure.
Reminder: Shanoff reading in NYC tomorrow night! I'm the opening act for Will Leitch and Dave Zirin. It's at 8 p.m. at Happy Ending (302 Broome) and it's FREE. Here's a link to all the info, including a far-reaching pre-event interview that is one of my favorite of all time.
(By the way, I predict you're going to be hearing a lot about Will's book "God Save the Fan" this month. It comes out on January 22, and it's going to be a huge sensation. It's very very good, which helps. Did you happen to catch the Page Six item about it yesterday?)
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
What a brilliantly coached -- and executed -- game by Michigan. (I can only imagine Michigan fans celebrating, but wondering: Where was that fearlessness all year?)
The image of Lloyd Carr on his players' shoulders will linger well into the Rich Rodriguez Era. Sincerest congratulations to Michigan on a hell of a win in a hell of a game.
(Yes, it's worth revising my prediction from as recently as last week that Florida will either start next season at No. 1... or finish it that way. They will be a contender -- the bitter memory of this loss will fuel plenty of off-season workouts -- but it's a loaded field at the top.)
Monday, December 31, 2007
Happy New Year!
Today's Names to Know: New Year's Day Bowls! Darren McFadden! Tim Tebow! Mike Leach! Chris Long! Ron Zook! Colt Brennan! Knowshon Moreno! (And non-Bowl names: Brian Billick, Randy Mueller, Roger Clemens, Andre Woodson, Jonathan Stewart, Eddie Sutton, NHL Outdoor Mayhem and More!)
Start your new year with this: My annual must-read list of What's "Out" and what's "In" for 2008 – a tradition dating back to the late 90s and a list I have compiled through the years for ESPN.com, SI.com and, the last two years, Deadspin. Enjoy!
Settle in, with your New Year's Day elixir of choice... for fans of teams ending their seasons today (as with fans whose teams have played all month long in other bowls), it's a long way until the 2008 season opener (or, at least, the spring game)...
UGA Hawaii, if Knowshon Moreno isn't at full-strength (see below).
To be clear: If
More for today:
Sugar Bowl Update:
(The whole point of voting Hawaii No. 1 if they beat UGA is that they would be beating the team playing better than anyone in the country at the end of the season; without a healthy Moreno, that's not Georgia anymore -- no real college football fan or "expert" could claim that.)
NHL Winter Classic: I'm not much of a hockey guy, but today's "Winter Classic" (massive outdoor game) is something I will have on the second TV in my house. It's the most clever marketing the league has produced in years (certainly since trying to put the league on YouTube), and it's exactly the type of thing that casual (or non-) fans would tune in for. It's not just a great day for college football fans, but for hockey fans, too.
Ravens fire Brian Billick: This was such a long-time coming that it is almost anti-climax. Still: The guy DID win a Super Bowl title; there's no question that he will find work as a head coach, soon. Meanwhile, all signs point to the Ravens wanting a win-now coach, who will be hamstrung by the team's lack of a reliable QB.
Bill Parcells fires GM Randy Mueller: Hopefully, there's still a seat at the table for him with ESPN.com Insider for the NFL Draft, where he can talk all about taking wide receivers as a reach. (Jeff Ireland, the Cowboys' lead scout and a Parcells guy, is the top name to replace him.)
NFL Draft: I was originally right yesterday (and wrong in the "Update"). The Falcons, Chiefs and Raiders will have a crazy coin-flip in order to determine the 3-4-5 order in the NFL Draft, because they all had the same strength of schedule.
Here's the complexity: The Falcons and Raiders flip for the 3-spot to start. If
Where are the Jets in all this, you ask? By beating the Chiefs in OT in the season finale and having a tougher strength of schedule than the other three 4-win teams, the Jets got bumped all the way to No. 6, rather than locked in at No 3.
NBA: Blazers winning streak ends at 13 after a loss to the Jazz. Now we'll see how the young streaky Blazers really respond.
CBB: Eddie Sutton is still two wins away from 800 career wins in his single-minded self-absorbed mission to hit the milestone at the expense of a
Not about sports: One of my favorite newspaper features of the year comes out on January 1. The Washington Post's annual list of what's out and in for the new year.
Happy New Year, everyone. I would argue that 2007 was the worst year that sports fans have seen in a long time.
In the NFL, there was the Vick story, which was the Story of the Year. Baseball had the Mitchell Report. The NBA had the Donaghy scandal. Yep, pretty close to rock-bottom.
But even the "good" stories were problematic:
The Pats going 16-0 was historic, but by comparison made the rest of the league look totally uncompelling. (And the fantasy season SUUUCKED.)
The Red Sox became the New Yankees, insufferably successful, poised for a decade of dominance -- sweeping away the Cinderella
The Spurs are the NBA dynasty no one seems to care about at all; a Finals vs. the league's marquee player led to the worst ratings ever.
(That's partially why I picked the
In 2007, two fan bases had make-the-rest-of-fandom-want-to-retch years:
Pretty shitty, actually.
Here's the thing: On the playing field, 2008 sizes up about the same as last year:*The Pats? Should go 19-0 en route to another Super Bowl title.
*The Red Sox? Will be the favorites to win another World Series (Go Tigers!)
*The Spurs? Will be the favorites to win another NBA title, over KG and the rejuvinated Celtics (at least offering temporary relief from Boston sports dominance)
*Florida football? Should enter and exit the 2008 season at No. 1, led by the reigning Heisman winner.
Yeesh. The common factor: Dominance. Dominance is not good for sports, no matter what the Patriots' TV ratings might be. Fans need to believe there's a chance another team (their team, or otherwise) can win. Otherwise, what's the point?
The only thing that will redeem 2008 is that it can't possibly match the all-time OFF-field lows of 2007: Vick, Donaghy, Mitchell. Can it?
What were your favorite sports memories of 2007? And what are your predictions for 2008?
Today's Names to Know: New Year's, Patriots, Wild Card Weekend, Redskins, NFL Draft 2008, Donovan McNabb, Devin Hester, Bowl Mania, Dayton, Jose Canseco, The Wire and More!
Happy New Year! Special New Year's post coming later this morning.
NFL Wrap: If it wasn't for the Pats perfect season, Week 17 of the 2007 NFL season would have approached all-time worthlessness. As it is, the playoffs are set. The team to beat (or not beat, in this case) is established. Let's tee up next week:
AFC: Jags at Steelers, Titans at Chargers. Jags recently beat the Steelers in
NFC: Redskins at Seahawks, Giants at Bucs. Ugh, can you remember a less inspired pair of NFC Wild Card games? What does it say when the biggest intrigue is watching KSK's Unsilent Majority (Redskins uber-fan) and Captain Caveman (Seahawks uber-fan) go at each other all week?
(By the way, after the way I called out the Giants on Friday, I owe them a hat-tip for the way they played to win the game on Saturday. I didn't credit them enough in Sunday's post.)
Honestly, what an lame batch of games in the playoffs -- totally appropriate for what has been the lamest season in recent NFL history, entirely because of the Pats' perfection, though ironically (and infernally) the Pats perfection by itself redeems the season.
Let's say a quick "thanks" to the Browns, who were the surprise success of the season. It's really a shame that
(The Redskins making the playoffs -- even ahead of Purple Jesus -- is one of the great stories of an NFL season with very few of them. It's a shame the conditions that made it a heart-warming situation. Clinton Portis' somersault into the end zone might just be the image of the year for Redskins fans.)
NFL Draft 2008: Who won when they SHOULDN'T have? Ending a miserable 2007 season on an appropriate note, the Falcons won when they shouldn't have, taking themselves out of a guaranteed spot in the Top 3 and putting themselves into a 4-way scrum for the No. 3 pick in what will likely be a 4-player draft: Good thing the Falcons need a QB. (UPDATE: Apparently, the Falcons earned the No. 3 spot in a tiebreaker. OK. It doesn't excuse the following...)
(So: What's the Jets' excuse for not tanking and ending up in that 4-loss Gang of Four, rather than locked into the No. 3 draft spot?
Season-ending intrigue: Was this Donovan McNabb's final game in an Eagles uniform? Among other offseason storylines for the teams in the league not in the playoffs, this might be the biggest one.
For former playoff teams like the Bears, Saints or Bengals -- or teams that entered the season with playoff hopes like the Broncos or Ravens: Back to the drawing board? Or do you just rely on parity?
(For the Bears, let's hope it's a lot more Devin Hester, who ended his season having established himself as the most exciting player in pro football.)
Marv Levy stepping down as GM of the Bills? The proper response is "Zzz..."
NBA: Lakers go with the short-shorts against the Celtics, then lose. I appreciate the gimmick, I really do. Loved it, actually. It was worth the loss. But despite John Stockton's success wearing them into the new century, I actually think the players had to be feeling out of sorts wearing the shorts early on; it's just such a change from the usual (which they switched back to in the second half). But, as far as entertainment goes, I give the Lakers huge credit.
Blazers win streak hits 13: On December 2,
CFB Last Night:
CFB Bowl Mania: Six bowls on Monday! It's as if people don't need to go to work or something. Here's a preview, in chronological order of their scheduled kickoffs.
Humanitarian: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno St. Needless to say, Paul Johnson has bigger expectations for '08 than Humanitarianism.
Sun: South Florida vs.
Chick-fil-A: Clemson vs.
CBB Weekend Wrap: Yes,
MLB: Jose Canseco to write a sequel to "Juiced," presumably titled "Juiced 2: Electric Boogaloo." Actually, the working title is "Vindicated." (What: You expected it to be called "Humility?" The irony is that if Canseco had even a minimal bit of restraint, he would be positioned as the hero in this steroids story.)
Congress wanted to reinstate Pete Rose? I can't get behind this story, if only because it involved scandalized former Congressman Bob Ney of
TV (Non-Sports): "The Wire" Season 5 season premiere is supposedly going on HBO On Demand TODAY -- a week ahead of the scheduled debut. I can't wait for the return of the greatest drama in the history of TV.
Shanoff reading this Thursday in NYC: Don't forget to save the date Thursday night for a reading event, where I'll be the opening act for Will Leitch and Dave Zirin. That's like Lifehouse opening up for Prince and U2. (Happy Ending, 302 Broome, 8 pm, FREE). Details here.
New Year's Resolutions: I used to make lists of dozens of things I wanted to improve; it all seemed sort of technocratic. For the last few years, I've tried to abide by "Live and let live," with a handful of the usuals (eat better, work out more) thrown in, aspirationally. (Special New Year's post coming later this morning.)
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for 2008. Be safe.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
They set a record for points scored in a season by a team. Tom Brady set a record for TD passes in a season. Randy Moss set a record for TD receptions in a season.
Here's the thing: It's all meaningless unless they win the Super Bowl, which they undoubtedly will. It is less a season of perfection than inevitability. But still an accomplishment that no one has ever seen before, and you know how much I appreciate superlative novelty.
(Meanwhile, I misspoke when I said that the Pats losing in the playoffs would be the biggest choke ever. That will forever be held by the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. But the Pats losing in the playoffs would be the biggest choke in NFL history.)
College Bowl Wrap: Penn State rallies... Wake Forest wins "Cindy Bowl"... Croom caps season with a snoozer... Kevin Smith doesn't break Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record...
Coaching Carousel: UCLA hires Rick Neuheisel. So, is there, like, an office bracket over when his first NCAA violation will come out? I'll take early 2009. But the Bruins wanted a "splashy" hire and got one: UCLA will be better.
College Hoops: Dayton throttles Pitt. Wow, I thought Dayton would win, but not by 25. I don't think anyone -- even Dayton faithful -- saw this coming. That said: I think this win puts Dayton on the map as THE mid-major to watch.
More: Winthrop hangs Miami's first loss on the Canes... Wisconsin edges Texas in Austin in the most exciting finish of the day... nice "name" wins for Memphis (over Arizona) and Tennessee (over Gonzaga).
NBA: Hawks get a reality check, winning streak snapped vs. Mavs... Heat get a reality check, keep losing (this time to a Wizards team they have historically owned)... Keep an eye on Kevin Durant's sprained left finger...