Saturday, February 02, 2008

Pats Cheating Scandal Gets Murkier:
Did the Team Tape the Rams Before XXXVI?

Must-must-must read post on Pro Football Talk about the story in today's Boston Herald blowing open the story (which had been swirling as a mere rumor) that the Pats secretly taped the Rams final walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, giving them just enough edge to allow them to slip past the heavily favored Rams to win the Pats' first title of the dynasty.

Given what we have seen this year, would it really surprise anyone that Bill Belichick uses rule-bending (or -breaking) videotaping techniques to gain an advantage? Like this year against the Jets (or last year against however-many teams) was the first time he did it? That doesn't pass the smell test. And there is little question that inside info like the walk-through video would have had a game-changing impact on the Super Bowl's result -- and thus sports history, connecting all the way to this weekend.

I believe these new allegations related to the Pats' XXXVI win over the Rams. Does it taint their dynasty? In theory, yes. In reality, no. Not only is it relatively ancient history, but NFL fans have shown an infinite capacity to not really care about cheating, whether it is technological or chemical. ("What competitors!") But god forbid the fantasy waiver wire malfunction.

But from the moment the New York Times broke things on Friday morning, this continues to be a really big story. Really big. Super big.

-- D.S.

Saturday 02/02 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Gasol, Goodell, Johan, Knoblauch, More

Today's Names to Know: Pau Gasol, Johan Santana, Roger Goodell, Chuck Knoblauch, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy and More!

Lakers Snag Pau Gasol, Cont'd: There's a new "Big Three" in the NBA.

Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

I would argue that trio is an even BETTER "Big Three" than Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce... at least if you want to win a title.

If the Lakers were in the East, they would now be favored to win the conference, ahead of the Celtics. As it is, they have moved from a second-tier contender in the West to the first tier, along with San Antonio and Phoenix. (Sorry, New Orleans.)

Why do Bryant, Bynum and Gasol form the better "Big Three?" Size, for one. Give me two bigs and Kobe over a jumpshooter, a bigger jumpshooter and KG.

The other factor? What's around the Big Three: Compare Lamar Odom to the Celtics' 4th-best player; that's not even a comparison. And the rising Jordan Farmar is a wash with Rajon Rondo. UPDATE: That last statement was WRONG. Rondo is better than Farmar, but I'm not quite sure he's more valuable than Odom.

What's amazing is that with this one move, the Lakers are so relevant... so now. Bethlehem Shoals and I were IM'ing about the deal shortly after it came out, and he said the Lakers were the "new Suns," the new team of fascinating, weird talents meshed together.

The wild thing is that we may get to see which "Big Three" rules: If the Celtics are the favorites to win the East, then the Lakers have to be considered a strong contender to win the West.

Celtics-Lakers might be the only thing that could save the NBA Finals. (Wow, just in time for Groundhog Day today, doesn't it seem like we're now re-living the 80s?)

Mets make a deal with Johan Santana for 6Y/$137.5M, the largest deal ever for a pitcher. What's $23 million a year between new friends?

Roger Goodell vs. Arlen Specter: So the Senator wants to know why the Commissioner destroyed the tapes involved in the Pats' cheating scandal; the Commish replied with a non-answer, focusing on his punishment of the Pats, not the underlying cover-up by the league.

Chuck Knoblauch vs. Congress: He testified and said he did truthfully, but also implied he didn't say anything about Roger Clemens. Andy Pettitte's testimony next week should be a little more interesting.

NBA Stud: Kobe was obviously excited by the Gasol deal; he scored 46 in a 20-point rout of the Raptors. (To my point before about Odom, he had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. There isn't a better "4th-option" in the NBA; the Suns' Barbosa is his closest competitor.)

Meanwhile, Brandon Roy had a triple-double (20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists).

Oh, and Grizzlies fans have to feel like they were fleeced; hopefully, this leads to a sale to a better owner. I mean: Why trade for Crittenton when you just drafted Conley and traded for Navarro? Rudy Gay IS a budding superstar they can build a team around, but they will need some size. Good thing they'll have their own high draft pick to use in what should be a loaded 2008 draft class: Kevin Love or Michael Beasley will look really good paired with Gay and Conley.

CFB: The Georgia legislators who passed a resolution calling for a college football playoff are deluded; how about solutions, instead of complaints? Oh, right: Because no playoff solution solves the underlying problems.

-- D.S.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Pau Gasol to the Lakers

The Lakers just fleeced the Grizzlies and suddenly are a very legit contender in the West.

Super Bowl XXXII, 10 Years Later

I have been to one Super Bowl in my life: Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. John Elway's first title and the scene of his career-defining "helicopter" gain.

I got to the game as an employee of the NFL. (Not sure how many of you know I worked for the league itself, about a half-dozen jobs ago.) I worked in the division that managed (at the time managed by Starwave, which also managed, where I worked before the NFL and which facilitated the role at the NFL).

For the most part, I was a low-level lackey. The culture wasn't particularly entrepreneurial and the atmosphere wasn't particularly welcoming to its nascent online division.

I did have the opportunity to do two interesting things:

(1) I got to conceive and manage that year, which would become the most widely visited single-event Web site in the young history of the consumer Web.

(2) They flew me out to San Diego for a long week of lead-up to the game. Here's where I have to tip my cap to the generosity of the league: They also provided for a companion to fly out to San Diego – and, because I was working at the game, they gave me two game tickets, along with a host of passes to all of the biggest and best parties.

I gave the tickets to my father and brother. My dad took advantage of the free flight; my brother used miles to get out to San Diego. They stayed with me in my hotel room for free and ate from the plates of food I brought from the employee dining tent. They got special access to the NFL Experience and front-row seats to MTV Rock-n-Jock and attended all those parties with me. It was one of their greatest memories ever. Mine, too.

For that, I can't thank the NFL enough, even if the experience of working for the league for those 8 months wasn't particularly fun – and, actually, kind of ruined any passion I had for the NFL.

I watched the game from an press box, and two things stand out:

(1) Jim Fassel is a genius. He did the equivalent of a "live-blog" for, providing constant chatter and answering user questions throughout the game. I don't think I truly understood how smart the REALLY smart NFL minds are until I heard him talk about the game: He knew everything – his analysis skills were jaw-dropping. He was calling plays before they happened. He might not be a fit for TV as an analyst, but the NFL should allow guys like him to call games from a special live feed you get if you care about the actual game being played. And he was a truly nice guy and treated all the lowly workers really well.

(2) I had a special league-approved locker-room pass, as part of, ostensibly to cover the game. When the game was over, I could either go to the Broncos locker room – a once-in-a-lifetime experience – or sit in the box and work on a postgame column to lead, tinker with the site and otherwise avoid a scene in the bowels of the stadium that, in all honesty, I was horrifying intimidated by. (I will never be a reporter.) Instead, I gave the pass to a co-worker and she went to the locker room. As expected, she said it was one of the coolest scenes she has ever experienced. Of course it was. In hindsight, I regret my insecurity – it is one of my greatest regrets of my professional life, if only to have experienced a Super Bowl locker-room.

I can't believe it is 10 years later. My stint at the NFL wasn't particularly memorable. But this week 10 years ago, it elevated itself to one of the most enjoyable weeks and experiences of my life. (Oh, and I have never sniffed a return to the Super Bowl.)

Commenters: What is the greatest sporting event you have ever been to live? (I know we bring this up somewhat regularly. I can't get enough of your stories. This isn't my most meaningful sporting event I have ever attended, but it is the biggest, from an "objective" standpoint.)

-- D.S.

PFT Cracks Open Today's New NFL Scandal

Earlier this morning, I mentioned the NY Times breaking a story of Arlen Specter wanting to talk to NFL Commish Roger Goodell about the NFL confiscating any/all evidence of the Pats' cheating from earlier this season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk hits the critical point in this must-read post. This is so much bigger than just the one instance of spying (or the league's sketchy confiscation of any evidence that might prove it).

Here's the thing: Walsh might not want to talk, but if (or when) Congress asks him to testify, he can't say no. And if he's worried about the NFL pressuring him not to testify, I expect Specter would say something to the effect of: "NFL: You do NOT want to go down the road of intimidating a Congressional witness."

See, now THAT would be even worse than the league's cover-up, which itself was worse than the original spying crime. See how this works? (The league should take a lesson from its many steroid scandals: Fans don't really care, do they? So if I was Goodell I'd say: Happy to clear it all up.)

This is quickly becoming THE sub-plot outside the Super Bowl -- and I'm betting it continues to be a story long after Sunday's result has been determined and a champ has been crowned.

- D.S.

Super Bowl XLII Pick: Pats 41, Giants 17

Shanoff's Super Bowl XLII Prediction: Pats 41, Giants 17.

Quickie jinx is NOT in effect. That's how obvious it is that the Pats are going to win. (I will say, however, that my final vote in the "19-0 vs. 18-1" poll was to see the Greatest Upset Ever over the Greatest Season Ever. For superlative purposes, I can't lose, but I'd like to see the Pats lose slightly more than I'd like to see the Pats win.)

Submit your own picks in the Comments -- "Morning Quickie"-style! I want to know who you think will win, the score, your pick for MVP, your pick for a darkhorse MVP and any other (short) analysis you want to offer up.

Click here for a list of SBXLII picks from a ton of bloggers.

BTW: This story is fascinating -- Roger Goodell is going to be hauled in front of Congress to explain why the NFL destroyed any/all evidence related to the Pats' spying cheating. As he should be: It was one of the sketchiest moves of the last year in sports.

Senator Arlen Specter, driving the bus on this, echoes the old Quickie maxim, saying: "It's the same old story. What you did is never as important as the cover-up." So now the NFL's destruction of evidence is framed as a "cover-up."

And it's wild -- and a little bad-ass -- that Specter chose to make this announcement pop on the Thursday and Friday before the Super Bowl, for maximum impact. Tracking...

Oh, and about Microsoft wanting to buy Yahoo: The first thing I thought of was: Well, if MSFT kills the MSN partnership with -- which drives's traffic -- and keeps it "in-house" for Yahoo Sports, that would be massive for Yahoo Sports. 30 million unique users a month isn't out of the question, which is sort of insane.

-- D.S.

Friday 02/01 A.M. Quickie:
XLII, NFLPA, Spurs, Wazzu, Duke, More!

Today's Names to Know from today's Sporting News column:

Tom Brady, Tom Petty, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest, Bud Light, FedEx, Gene Upshaw, Jacque Vaughn, Washington State, Wisconsin, Chuck Knoblauch, Johan Santana, David West, Cameron Crazies and More!

Including: Why I'm rooting for the Pats to lose (but picking them to win)... why Tom Petty will rule (but you'll be talking about Paula Abdul on Monday morning)... why Washington State is overrated (but Wisconsin is underrated)... why Chuck Knoblauch may have an "I can't recall" problem... why today is do-or-die for the Mets... why David West is a fantastic All-Star pick (despite the Al Jefferson snub)... and why the Cameron Crazies hate the environment... all after the jump.

Check back later this morning for a full discussion of the Super Bowl (prepare to share your own picks in the Comments), and be sure to check back on both Saturday and Sunday for the usual (Very) Quickies.

-- D.S.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday 01/31 A.M. Quickie:
K-State, Brady, Kidd, Johan, NBA, More!

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Michael Beasley, Tom Brady, Plaxico Burress, Johan Santana and Peter Greenberg, LeBron, Jason Kidd, Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, Jamario Moon, Steve Mariucci, Al Saunders, Terrelle Pryor, Mike Marshall and More!

Including: Why Kansas ain't all that... why Tom Brady thinks Plaxico Burress is a fool... Why Johan and the Mets will work it out... Why Jason Kidd to the Mavs makes sense... why Al Jefferson should be an All-Star... why Steve Mariucci is a red herring... why you shouldn't bite athletes if you're a wrestling coach... and more, after the jump!

UPDATE: It's obvious that my personal snub of Paul Pierce as an All-Star reserve was met with a karmic payback of Joakim Noah inexplicably not being named to the Rookie roster in the Rookie-Soph game. That's a joke, both because Noah is entertaining and because he is among the rookie leaders in PER. (Think it's punishment for his rebellious attitude earlier this season?)

And, in case you missed it, scroll down to the next post for a trip in the way-back machine to my days editing Dr. Z and Peter King...

-- D.S.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dr. Z to MDS on Art Monk's HOF Chances:
"Just Put Him the F--- In Already"

There: I basically gave away the story in the headline. But it's worth your time to read MDS' latest dispatch from Phoenix, where he is covering Super Bowl XLII for Fanhouse.

I have a soft spot for Dr. Z. When I worked at as an editor and on-again columnist (anyone remember my "At a Glance" franchise? See the roots of the "Quickie" editorial style?), I was in charge of two notable columns: Peter King's MMQB and Dr. Z's picks and mailbag.

I'm not sure Dr. Z still does this, but one of the best columns I ever read was his description of the inner-workings of the Pro Football Hall of Fame deliberations. I think he got in trouble with the Hall for it, but it was an incredible glimpse at an appallingly closed process.

(That gets into my whole issue with every Hall of Fame, particularly Pro Football and Baseball, both of which are secretive cabals run by guys whose bonafides to make decisions on behalf of what are truly public -- fan -- trusts grows increasingly more suspicious every year.)

Anyway, that Dr. Z HOF column stands out in my mind -- as does one particularly brutal reaming he gave me over a simple misunderstanding. I wear it as a badge of honor now, I guess.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 01/30 A.M. Quickie:
Santana, Media Day, Pettitte, Kidd, More

Today's Must-Know Names in today's Sporting News column:

Johan Santana, Phil Humber, Carlos Gomez, Tom Brady, Kellie Pickler, Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, Andy Pettitte, Josh McDaniels, Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Yao, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Houston, Ben Mauk, Rich Rodriguez, Barbaro and More.

Including: Why Johan saved the week in sports... how the Twins got fleeced... how Plaxico didn't pull a Namath... how Pettitte turned on Clemens... how Josh McDaniels is the best choice to coach the Redskins... how Kevin Durant shocked the NBA... how Memphis tried to justify its sorry conference schedule... how Barbaro is like Elvis...

All that and more... after the jump.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Johan Santana to the Mets a Done Deal?

Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. Here's the story.

What a huge score for the Mets, who needed a No. 1 starter and a "win-now" move to revitalize a franchise debilitated by last season's epic late-season collapse.

It is also a big win for the Twins, who get three young (read: cheap) pitching prospects, along with an outfielder with star potential. (The Mets kept Fernando Martinez, another young OF prospect.)

(Worth considering that the Yankees and Red Sox played to a draw on this one: As long as neither came away with Santana, they both win -- or, more realistically, neither lose.)

More tomorrow, obviously. Refreshing to get a huge story to eclipse the insanity (and inanity) of Super Bowl Media Day.

-- D.S.

Super Bowl XLII Media Day Drinking Game

Super Bowl XLII Media Day At-Work/In-Class Drinking Game: Play along!

Dumb question: 1 sip.
Repeat question: 2 sips.
Comedian injects themselves in: 3 sips.
Blogger gets question in: 4 sips.
Questions about Gisele: 5 sips.

Others to add? Send it through Comments.

Will you be following Media Day online? (I won't.) Submit any interesting things/quotes/anecdotes you notice from the coverage in the Comments, and I will get them up ASAP.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 01/29 A.M. Quickie:
XLII Media Day, Paul, Kidd, Bedard, More

Today's Must-Know Names from today's Sporting News column:

Media Day, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Koby Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, Pete Carroll, Rex Ryan, Romeo Crennel, UConn, St. Mary's, Michael Beasley, Erik Bedard, Pedro Feliz, David Aardsma, Nolan Ryan, Chris Webber, Riley Skinner, Gilbert Arenas, Eric McErlain and More!

Including: Why Super Bowl Media Day sucks, why Chris Paul should be starting in the NBA All-Star Game, why Calbert Cheaney was the Next Big Thing in the NBA back in 1993 (intrigued by that?) and so much more, after the jump. (As soon as the column is updated by the SN home office.)

Coming at ~10:30 at
The annual Super Bowl Media Day Drinking Game.

In case you missed it Monday:
Riley Skinner: The Naked Bootleg!
State of the (Sports) Union (6th Annual!)
Varsity Dad Athlete-Baby-Naming Update!
Lamenting Mike Lieberthal!

-- D.S.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mike Lieberthal Retires

That's one less active Jewish baseball player. Lieberthal retires as a two-time All-Star, with a .274 BA and 150 career HR. MLB M.O.T. Nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Brad Ausmus.

Varsity Dad Update:
Naming Your Kid After an Athlete, Cont'd

The clubhouse leader is the guy who named his son "Zambrano," after Carlos. Can you top that? Additional fascinating comments/stories in the latest Varsity Dad post about naming your kid after an athlete. Be sure to include your own story in the Varsity Dad comments.

Must-Read: Darren Rovell's post picking up on the same baby-name meme (great minds think alike, obviously), with a lot more research and cool details than my post (his mind smarter than mine, obviously).

6th Annual State of the Sports Union

The State of the Sports Union in 2008 is…unsettled, but promising.

Fans are arguably coming off the worst year in a generation, between the Vick scandal, the Mitchell Report, the Donaghy mess (and even the debilitating BCS debate) – no major sport was left untouched.

On the field, the only fans who seem to be enjoying championship satisfaction are the ones in Boston. New England's empire-building across the NFL and MLB were joined by a once-unthinkable resurrection of the Celtics as title contenders. It is a terrible moment if you don't like Boston sports – or Boston sports fans -- a sentiment that covers most of the country. (Obviously, other pockets of fans -- in San Antonio or Louisiana -- had great years in 2007, but the dominant theme was "Boston.")

But there is hope for this new year.

2008 will be defined by three things:

(1) The Patriots either completing the unprecedented 19-0 championship season or the unthinkable upset of our generation, finishing 18-1. That result and its aftershocks will be felt as soon as this weekend; it will define the rest of the year in the nation's most popular sport.

(2) The Olympics in Beijing, which will pair spectacle and smog, with superstars like Michael Phelps sharing the spotlight with Olympic heroes (or goats) yet to be determined.

(3): The intersection of sports and politics, as we enter into the most contentious and exciting Presidential election year anyone can remember. The Presidential race will dominate everything else, and often intermingle with sports, as you will see this Sunday, the day of the Super Bowl and two days before Super Tuesday.

The rest of the sports year is, thankfully, kind of intriguing: Can the Red Sox repeat, extending this current Golden Age of New England sports? Or will the suddenly spend-happy Tigers give us reason to think of 1968 all over again? College hoops is as wide-open as it has been in years, with a Memphis team that might go undefeated – or dramatically implode short of the championship. College football has the prospects of being as wide-open as last season – whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a personal choice. Tiger Woods seems poised for a Slam run. Sports blogs had a break-out year in '07, and will only get bigger in '08.

But here is the scarring effect of 2007: Back in January 2007, we didn't see the Vick thing coming or the Donaghy thing coming. "Mitchell Report" was a vague notion, rather than a defining phrase. What we know for certain is that scandal will inevitably rock sports – it is there, just waiting to be uncovered. The corrosive deeds are waiting to be committed: The only details needed are "who," "what" and "when."

What 2007 did was ensure that fans can't cheer without at least keeping in the back of their head that at any moment, scandal will tarnish the moments, will dominate the media coverage, will spoil the fun.

2008 can't possibly be worse than 2007. That's a hell of a statement, in and of itself. All signs point to "better" – even if you are a Boston sports fan.

Put your own thoughts on the State of the Sports Union in the Comments.

-- D.S.

Blind Item of the Week

What Dickensian-named college QB is about to have the wildest day of his life?

UPDATE: Riley Skinner of Wake Forest. (h/t: With Leather)

Monday 01/28 A.M. Quickie:
Brady, Hendricks, Bedard, CBB, More!

Monday's Must-Know Names, as featured in today's Sporting News column:

Tom Brady (already a cliche), Randy Hendricks and the "Hendricks Report," Erik Bedard, Johan Santana, Dan Snyder, Gregg Williams, Lane Kiffin, Chris Paul, Rudy Gay, Hedo Turkoglu, Kevin Martin, LeBron James, Chris Webber, DeMarcus Nelson, Walter Hodge, Erik Ainge, Andre Caldwell, Zarah Yisrael, Djokovic(!) and More!

How do those names fit into today's sports discussion? Check out my Sporting News column and find out.

Meanwhile, coming later today on

*My 6th annual State of the Sports Union address!
*Lamenting Lieberthal's retirement!
*Varsity Dad "baby-naming" update!

-- D.S.