Saturday, April 05, 2008

"This Game Is Ovah": Billy Packer?!?

"This game is ovah." That is what Billy Packer just muttered... at the 7:32 mark of the first half of the UNC-Kansas game, with Kansas up a hundred. OK, it only feels like a hundred. It's 26.

I'm no Packer fan, but that was just about the awesomest thing I have ever heard a TV analyst say this early in a broadcast. It was so... definitive. And so early.

Normally, they are encouraged not to say things like that, because of -- you know -- the whole "TV ratings" thing... generally not a good idea to give people a reason to turn it off.

But Packer said it. Packer said exactly what everyone in the country was thinking -- including Packer -- when Rush hit that bombs-away 3 (nothing but net) to put KU up 26.

"This game is over." The smartest, ballsiest and awesomest thing Billy Packer has ever said.

(By the way, Kansas is putting on a clinic -- against the purported best team in the country. In 20 years of watching the Tournament avidly, I have never seen this kind of ass-kicking in a Final Four game, particularly against the "better" team. Maybe UNLV over Duke in '90. We'll have to see how the rest of this game plays out. But for a first half? Absolutely.)

-- D.S.

Saturday 04/05 (Very) Quickie

Waiting for... the Final Four!

Tigers drop to 0-4: This is getting ridiculous.

Studs: Chase Utley and Bill Hall each mash 2 HR

Hiroki Kuroda's MLB debut: Solid. 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 W.

NBA West: Lakers beat Mavs, Warriors beat Grizzlies. GSW now within .5 games of Denver, which is within .5 games of Dallas. The battle between these three teams for two spots should go down to the season's final game.

Hornets first in West to clinch a playoff spot: Does that alone cap their turnaround season, or do they have to win a playoff series? More than one playoff series? (Meanwhile, congrats to the Sixers on making the playoffs -- did anyone see that coming? Raptors and Wizards clinch, too.)

More NBA: Jazz beat Spurs, ending SA's 8-game W streak, but also reminding you that the West playoffs will be totally unpredictable.

Tyler Hansbrough is AP College Hoops Player of the Year: I'll stick with Kevin Love.

Cal hires Mike Montgomery: After his long and successful tenure at Stanford, this is huge to return to the Bay Area. It would be like Jim Tressel going to coach Michigan football. Cal will be much better.

Eric Gordon jumping to the NBA: He's a proven scorer, but can he play PG in the NBA, or is he just an undersized 2-guard, sort of like another Gordon (Ben)? He will have to be in the right situation, next to a larger point guard.

Of the teams likely to pick in the 4-10 range where Gordon will be taken, both the Nets (Devin Harris) and the Knicks (Jamal Crawford) seem to fit that description, though both could always use more size ahead of another guy looking to jack shots. Looking at those other Lottery teams, I'm not sure where Gordon would fit with them. He is no Derrick Rose, and he could end up sliding (or just being an overvalued pick).

-- D.S.

-- D.S.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday 04/04 A.M. Quickie:
Final Four, Favre, NBA West, Cueto Mania!

Today's Sporting News column found here.

So, the only question is: Do YOU think Brett Favre will (or even would) unretire?
I think he would; his retirement press conference had few absolutes, and you KNOW he thinks he can still play at a high level -- with the right team. It's a delicate balance: If he comes back -- but not with the Packers -- he sullies his legacy, not to mention opens himself up to mockery that his "retirement" was simply the largest yet of a career of Hall of Fame narcissism. I kind of want to see him do it, if only to see the craziness that ensues.

Meanwhile, we've got the Final Four tomorrow: You all know I'm all about UCLA. I appreciate the UCLA-Memphis subplots; the contrasts are fantastic: Love vs. Rose, Defense vs. Offense, Howland vs. Calipari, Final Four experience vs. Final Four first-timer. (UNC-Kansas? Meh: As long as UNC was going to win anyway -- which they are -- wouldn't you have rather seen Davidson one more time?)

MLB? Two words: Johnny Cueto. If not for the Final Four and the Favre thing, the Cueto story would have made a terrific lead item -- about the nature of sick debuts by phenoms that tantalize with the prospects of a great rookie year (even if Dusty Baker is going to pitch him until his arm falls off, which is too bad).

I have been tracking the day-to-day machinations of the NBA West, but -- honestly -- it will be a week before we really get down to the nitty-gritty and placement for playoff seeding begins to fall into place. On the line: Home-court advantage, up and down the line -- from the first round to the finals. Oh, and that 8-seed. In other years, we might discount the 8-seed, but after last season's Warriors amazingness, how can you overlook that team, whoever they may be?

There's a lot more in today's column. Hope everyone has a great weekend. I'll be blogging all weekend -- hopefully, with a Bonus Post later today, too.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday 04/03 A.M. Quickie:
MLB Day 3, NBA West, NFL Draft, More!

So I was working on today's column this morning, and I started writing a lead item that was just your basic snark: Look at these idiots!

Then I was hit by this weird sensation: After a 2007 that was arguably the Worst Sports Year Ever, I was... totally satisfied with the state of sports -- at least TODAY's state.

MLB is totally intriguing: It is early enough that the novelty of unlikely performances, late-game heroics, free-agent payoffs and everything else are fascinating.

The NBA West is night-in-night-out amazing (ugh: "amazing.") I'm perhaps a little wired from a midnight email I sent to a leading stats-minded blogger who had criticized my "NBA-is-niche-sport" argument from last week. But in constructing that email, I made sure to point out that I can think the NBA is "niche" yet still be a big fan and enjoy this season.

And, come on: It's the Final Four this weekend! And, yes, I have come to terms with Monday's "Final Four is ruined" argument -- I appreciate both the novelty of the all-1-seed situation and the level of talent on the court (even if I think both semis will be decisively won).

All in all (despite stuff like Chris Henry or Arthur Blank or Isiah Thomas still having a job), it's a great day to be a sports fan. I'd like to think that despite my cynical filter, I have always been an optimist -- if definitely not a purist -- about sports.

I think that sensation I felt this morning wasn't as much about reminding myself how good things are in sports this week as much as remind me how bad things were a year ago. I think this week -- not last year -- is closer to the natural state of fandom.

I'm quite sure I will be back to the usual myopic, instant-hysteria perspective tomorrow. Thank you for indulging my trip to 10,000 feet this morning.

Here's a link to today's Sporting News column

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bill James Meets Freakonomics

Great interview with Bill James on the NYT Freakonomics blog. (Wow, between Neyer yesterday and James today, I'm all about the O.G. statistically driven baseball analysts.)

Varsity Letters NYC Tonight: Fatsis Mania!

Great Varsity Letters lineup at Happy Ending tonight at 8, if you live in NYC. It's the Baseball Night, headlined by Stefan Fatsis, Cait Murphy and Jonathan Mayo. (Fatsis is one of my favorites -- he wrote "Word Freak" and is publishing a book this fall about the life of the kicker in the NFL -- and I'm not just saying that because he name-checked me on NPR during one of his weekly segments a few months back. But I'm just saying, that mention basically legitimized my blogging to my family.) Carl Bialik will host the VL event tonight, as always. Sure to be a great one. -- D.S.

Wednesday 04/02 A.M. Quickie:
Isiah, Walsh, Pedro, Dice-K, Crean, More!

Is the Knicks fans' nightmare almost over?
Is Pedro going to de-rail the Mets' chances?
Is Trevor Hoffman back?
Is Josh Hamilton a one-year wonder?
Is Tom Crean the answer for Indiana?
Is Bill Self the hope for Oklahoma State?
Is the NBA West any closer to being settled?
Is Tim Tebow the best amateur athlete?

All that and a lot more in today's Sporting News column.

Meanwhile, two things:

(1) Don't forget to check out my post about Rob Neyer's new book. (Or skip it and just get the book.)

(2) Those of you who totally disagreed with my "The Final Four is ruined" opinion from Monday -- lamenting the first time the Final Four was all 1-seeds -- will be pleased to know I was absolutely shellacked in an argument on local Alabama sports radio yesterday afternoon. The host echoed a lot of your arguments from the Comments on Monday, and I had no real answer for them. You got the best of me this time, Alabama!

I'm aiming to have a Bonus Post later this morning expanding on a point I made in the lead item of the SN column about Walsh and Isiah, about why "rebuilding" shouldn't be some sort of taboo concept -- for the Knicks or ANY team that perennially sucks.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Your 2008 Baseball Must-Read: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends

Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends by Rob Neyer. Out TODAY.

Rob Neyer is the single most influential online-sports columnist of all time
. Probably because he was the first. At least: The Web's first Web-spawned sports columnist to find -- and grow -- a national audience. I'm not sure it is fully appreciated the level to which he opened doors for everyone who has found a job writing a column for a mainstream sports site online. Rob would never say anything; I don't mind saying it.

I met Rob in the fall of 1996, when I started working as an editor at (then "ESPNet SportsZone" -- yes, really). Rob had THE dream job: He was a full-fledged columnist.

Back then, he dabbled in more than just baseball -- although that was obviously his specialty. But I remember getting him to write some college hoops stuff for me, and it was amazing.

Rob has always grasped a couple of key concepts about writing for an online audience: (1) Be accessible, (2) Be timely, (3) Embrace numbers. Oh, and he's a really nice, genuine guy, too.

I am biased, but I would argue that Rob Neyer and his MLB editor at the time, David Schoenfield, did as much (or more) to advance the fans' acceptance of stats in baseball than "Moneyball." Because they were doing it on the sport's biggest platform --

Since then, Rob has continued to amaze me with his fantastic and insightful writing -- both for and in his "Big Book" series, which I have highly recommended since they started.

The latest was released today: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends. It is a fantastic -- and controversial -- premise: Go back and examine the biggest (and not-so-biggest) legends in baseball history and actually determine if they were as legendary as their legend would have it.

I have had the book for a week or so now, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It's not something you read cover-to-cover, but something you can pick up and enjoy in short bursts. It is right up there with his other "Big Books" (plus his excellent book on pitchers with Bill James).

Even if I didn't consider Rob a friend, I would recommend this for any baseball fan -- avid or casual. (And, check out that Amazon price: $11?! That's a bargain.) Here's a link to his site.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 04/01 A.M. Quickie:
MLB Opening Day Instant History!

(I deleted the previous Pitino post, out of humiliation at being fooled. I have to say: I actually kind of enjoy being snookered. It's a fun feeling being had. I'm not being sarcastic. It's kind of hilarious... if you're willing to be the jerk who gets fooled, as I am.)

Kosuke Fukudome for NL Rookie of the Year!

Johan Santana for NL Cy Young!
Xavier Nady for NL MVP!
Joe Torre for NL Manager of the Year!
The Rays will win the AL East!
The Tigers will be a flop!
Torii Hunter is a bust!
Victor Martinez's injury kills the Indians!

Ahh: That sweet taste in your mouth is the Instant History that is unique to MLB Opening Day. Call it the "Tuffy Rhodes Factor," and that Instant History (or Hysteria) is the lead of my Sporting News column today.

All kidding aside, it is obvious that Fukudome is the real deal.

Also to be found in the column: Why the Nuggets are hating life... why AP All-American voters suck... why the women's Elite Eight is kind of awesome... why Stephen Curry is a lock for Player of the Year in college hoops next season... why I don't like April Fool's Day... and more!

Really: It's April already? Yikes.

-- D.S.

Monday, March 31, 2008

NCAA Touranment National Bracket Update

If you went by the "National Bracket" on -- the aggregate of all 3.6 million individual brackets submitted -- you would be in the 92nd percentile right now out of all of those nearly 4 million brackets.

That's right: You would be outperforming 92 percent of the country. Amazingly, you would be tied for 34th place out of nearly 700 participants in the Daily Quickie Readers pool. Not bad at all. (Certainly better than 661 other participants.)

Granted, all four 1-seeds making the Final Four -- a perennial plurality of the National Bracket, which inevitably brings down the percentile performance -- helped a ton. But still...

On the home front, things still look awful for me on my bracket. And Mrs. Quickie's high-flying start peaked after the UNC and Xavier wins on Thursday night, when she was in the 99th percentile of the DQR pool -- tied for 5th place overall. Once she lost Tennessee, things spiraled down from there. The two hours she spent in 5th were her/my One Shining Moment of the 2008 Tournament.

Anyway: Congratulations if you were smart enough to follow the wisdom of the crowds this year. You might not be winning your pool with the National Bracket picks (please let me know if you are), but you are out-performing almost everyone else for bragging rights. Amazing.

If it matters, the National Bracket picks UNC over UCLA in the national-title game.

-- D.S.

Monday 03/31 A.M. Quickie:
Final Four, MLB Openers, Zany NBA, More!

So my position that the first-ever all-1-seed Final Four ruins the Final Four has provoked a bunch of very good comments, found in the post below.

(UPDATE: Commenters continue to make very strong points on this.)

We can agree to disagree -- and many of you make good points -- but I think it is one of the better arguments we will see this year:

Is an uber-predictable Final Four made up of all the teams that were expected to make it -- for the first time in Tournament history -- a good thing... or a bad thing?

I argue in the lead of today's Sporting News column that I think it is a bad thing.

Not that any of the teams themselves are inherently bad, but simply that if nothing else, the NCAA Tournament's appeal is in its unpredictability -- and this outcome is entirely predictable.

(UPDATE: As some Commenters have pointed out, the more "predictable" outcome would have been all four 1-seeds NOT making the Final Four. Great point.)

Longtime readers know that I appreciate and honor the concept of "novelty" (or, its sibling, "superlative") more than any other quality in sports. It is the lens I view sports through.

So please know that the novelty of this being the first time all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four appeals to my deep appreciation of novelty.

Something just strikes me wrong about it.

I don't feel this way about the NFL or MLB or the NBA or college football or even the women's NCAA Tournament (for which I argue in the column that an all 1-vs-2 Elite Eight is a VERY good thing for women's hoops).

The NCAA Tournament is my favorite sports event of the year. The NCAA Tournament, for me, is defined much in part for rejection of any sense of "inevitable" success for the favorites.

So please allow me at least a 24-hour period to have an allergic reaction to the shattering of that definition. It had to happen at some point, I guess. But I don't think it's a good thing.

More from today's Sporting News column: MLB Opening Night was a huge success for MLB and the Nats and Nationals Park and Ryan Zimmerman... MLB Opening Day is filled with ace-heavy storylines... the NBA West is must-track on a daily basis... Isiah Thomas to Indiana University?... and more... after the jump!

Unrelated: I participated in my first-ever fantasy baseball "auction" draft on Friday afternoon, and I think it will be hard for me to go back to straight snake-drafts. It was a ton of fun -- even if my lack of experience led me to some atrocious choices early, middle and late. (I did, however, spend more than Average Auction Value for Ryan Zimmerman... for one morning, at least, I feel like I did something right.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

1-Seeds Sweep: The Final Four Is Ruined

The Final Four has been ruined.

More tomorrow morning. (But you know you agree with me.)

-- D.S.

Sunday 03/30 (Very) Quickie

Two down, two to go: Fans are wins by Kansas and Memphis away from college basketball's one-and-only doomsday scenario: All 4 1-seeds making the Final Four.

Be honest: These regional games have not been particularly fun or satisfying. Xavier? Sure. Davidson? Absolutely. The rest? Lame throttlings. (Yes, Louisville made a game of it in the second half, but you just knew Hansbrough wouldn't let UNC lose -- and I usually loathe psycho-babble constructs like that.)

UCLA and UNC were no exception. UNC looks amazing; the only team I could see stopping them (if anyone can stop them) is UCLA. Congrats to Tyler Hansbrough: After two disappointing tournament exits, he finally gets his Final Four, thanks to those 20 2nd-half points.

As for today, you are not a fan (or are a fan of Kansas) if you aren't rooting for Davidson. Alternatively, I am rooting hard for Texas -- not just to avert the "doomsday" scenario, but because I love seeing Memphis and John Calipari fall just short in a regional final... again.

Meanwhile, it's MLB Opening Night! And the opening of Nationals Park! And tomorrow is full-blown Opening Day!

Loved the Dodgers and Red Sox in the L.A. Coliseum last night, if only for its Biggest. Attendance. Ever. novelty. 115K+ in attendance!

NBA: Nuggets beat Warriors head-to-head to take over the 8-spot in the West... The Suns aren't cooked yet: They are in a tie for the Pacific lead with the Lakers... Rookie Al Thornton led all scorers yesterday across the NBA with a career-high 39.