Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday 04/19 (Very) Quickie

Isiah Thomas is out as Knicks coach: Years late is better than never. The Knicks can begin to rebuild -- and restore -- their franchise, and I'm betting Mark Jackson is tabbed to coach the team. Memo to Donnie Walsh: Contrary to myth, Knicks fans aren't afraid of "rebuilding." Sure beats whatever they would call the last few years.

MLB Last Night: Chipper Jones hits 2 HR (again)... Johan Ks 10... Aha! Big Papi hits a grand slam; maybe this will bust him out of his slump (and raises his average to a whopping .134)... Tom Glavine on the DL? That's weird... Joe Saunders!...

NBA Playoffs start today: Wiz-Cavs leads it all off, with Spurs-Suns Game 1 as the headliner. Go Wiz. (And while I picked the Spurs to repeat -- ugh -- I would really like to see the Suns win. So much better for fans, the NBA, everything.)

NBA owners approve Sonics move to Oklahoma City: Of course they did. There but for the grace of Stern go they...

Chris Douglas-Roberts turning pro: Just after Derrick Rose, CDR had THE break-out performance of the NCAA Tournament. How could NBA scouts not love his length and finishing ability? (Free throws need some work, obviously.)

Luc Mbah a Moute turning pro, too: After he, Love, Collison and Westbrook all leave, you will see just how good Ben Howland is -- he will have a very similar problem to Billy Donovan, having to rebuild with a talented, but green, freshman class.

How big will that coin-toss putting the Knicks over the Clips and T'wolves over the Grizzlies end up factoring in the Draft? Assuming none make the Top 3 (which isn't a particularly solid assumption), the question is: Do the pairs of teams cross-over for draft needs? Example: The Grizz need frontcourt help to replace Gasol; the T'wolves already have Al Jefferson.

Broncos sign Darrell Jackson: And, as I'm in Gainesville this weekend, you know this is well-received. (Wow, no pun intended, and forgive it.)

-- D.S.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Mania

Sorry for the late post - I've been traveling all morning, headed for Gainesville (where else?)

Head over to for today's column, led by my NBA playoff picks and the tough "win-or-else" spot the Celtics are in.

Meanwhile, the Northwestern football blog Lake The Posts has a long Q and A with me, if you're curious. (

More once I'm off the road. Someone text Tebow I'm coming to town...

- D.S.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Barack Obama, Politics and Sports Fans

UPDATE to yesterday's late post about ESPN cancelling a scheduled podcast interview between Barack Obama and Bill Simmons.

There's a theory that fans don't want to mix politics and sports. First of all, a conversation with Obama could/would have been entirely about basketball, because the interviewer is a basketball fan -- it is why Obama's hoops passion has been a popular meme for bloggers for the last year (or more).

Second, I disagree with that premise -- I'm a politics junkie AND a sports fan. And there is more interest in politics now -- among the public at large -- than there has been in a long time, and I presume that there are at least a few sports fans who also care about politics this year. Do fans want me to mix "David Ortiz is struggling" with "McCain's economic plan is sketchy?" Of course not.

But given Obama's passion for basketball (and sports more generally -- as a fan), I think talking about the intersection of Obama's interests (sports) and fans' interests (sports) is no more out of bounds than talking with Will Ferrell about his love of USC football while Ferrell is trying to promote his new movie. Everyone has an agenda -- it's up to the interviewer not to blindly play to it... and up to fans to recognize it.

(Last point: I haven't seen anyone else pick up on this, but please note that there was no apparent problem with "politics" when leveraging Obama's popularity by putting him at the beginning of that Monday Night Football broadcast back in the fall of 2006.)

-- D.S.

Why The NBA Is Backed Into The Corner

With Lakers-Celtics the only NBA Finals outcome that has a remote chance of having appeal with non-avid NBA fans nationwide, the NBA is in a bit of a tight spot:

Either they can reject the "history" angle and end up with TV ratings like last year's Finals or embrace the history and essentially say: "Remember how good the NBA used to be?"

Here's what I wrote in the SN column today:
Nope: "Back to the Future" is the NBA's only option. And that's kind of pathetic, like the fan approaching 40 who can't get over their high school glory days.

It is a testament to the hollowness of the NBA's so-called revival this season that its best playoff outcome leans on fan nostalgia for the mid-1980s.

(And not even every fan -- if you're under 30, you have little or no recollection of why Lakers-Celtics is the NBA's best rivalry. And if you're over 30, no one under 30 wants to hear your pull-the-ladder-up-behind-you stories about how great the NBA used to be.)

"Where 1987 Happens" is not what I think the NBA had in mind as its 2008 playoff marketing slogan.
Thoughts on this? And please keep in mind that I'm not talking about avid NBA fan interest in the playoffs, which will be there no matter who is playing. I'm talking about reaching the casual fan -- particularly the younger casual fan.

-- D.S.

Thursday 04/17 A.M. Quickie:
NBA Playoffs, MLB, Kevin Love, More

The NBA better hope for Lakers-Celtics in the Finals to be the outcome of this playoffs season.

(And that's kind of pathetic, don't you think?)

That's the gist of the lead item of my Sporting News column this morning.

Among other topics:

I give Al Horford NBA Rookie of the Year ahead of Kevin Durant (go ahead and act surprised)...

I praise Brandon Webb and bury Barry Zito...

I salute the Penguins...

I feel simultaneously good and bad about Kevin Love's decision to turn pro...

I question Mitch Mustain's decision-making ability...

I renew my offer to meet with Barack Obama...

Bonus Post on the Obama thing coming later today, btw.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Barack Obama Is Free To Talk With Me

I mean, if Barack Obama has got this sudden hole in his media schedule, I'm quite sure I can get permission to talk with Obama, the nation's leading basketball junkie. (Barack: Call me!)

Wednesday 04/16 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Sked, NBA West, MLB Drama, More

Highlights from today's Sporting News column:

I'm sorry, I just can't get excited about the release of the NFL schedule...
Maybe Kobe deserved my MVP vote after all...
Is it the last day of Isiah's reign in New York?...
Pedro Feliz!
Randy Wolf!
David Wright!
Jason Varitek!
Micah Owings!
Tiger's knee surgery just ruined the next 4-6 weeks of golf...
Derrick Rose is the best PG prospect since Jason Kidd...
(Yes, that includes Chris Paul...)
(No, I'm not saying Rose is better than Chris Paul, but I am saying that coming out of college, Rose seems like the better NBA prospect than Paul was coming out of college...)
Joe Thornton!
And more... after the jump!

More later today.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday 04/15 A.M. Quickie:
NBA MVP, Melo, Ortiz, Greinke, Beasley

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

Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, David Ortiz, Randy Johnson, Zack Greinke, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Beasley, Sean Avery, Atlanta Hawks and More!

Why Chris Paul is my NBA MVP ahead of Kobe...
Why Carmelo is an idiot...
Why David Ortiz is the new Mario Mendoza...
Why Randy Johnson is only "sort of" back...
Why Zack Greinke is the best of the AL...
Why A-Rod is already among immortals...
Why Michael Beasley is better than Kevin Durant...
Why Sean Avery is hockey's douchebag...
Why the Hawks fans are celebrating...
And more... after the jump!

If you haven't read it, yesterday afternoon, I posted a fairly long analysis of the ongoing transformation in the sports-media industry, siphoning influence from mainstream media opinion-makers. It's directly below this post.

More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Rick Reilly, Big Daddy Drew and the Demise of the Newspaper Sports Columnist

So Big Daddy Drew had this post on Deadspin last week talking about Rick Reilly's rant against bloggers, among others. It's worth a read, and I wanted to add on a few thoughts that are by no means complete, but possibly pushing the discussion forward:

I used to think that sports reporting -- beat-writing -- had become commodified: As fast as a story could be "broken," I could have the story and my opinion about it on my blog.

Then I reminded myself that punditry everywhere -- on blogs, TV, the back of SI, whatever -- would be nowhere without that initial reporting. It is less valuable to the original source, but not commodified. Whether you are a mainstream sports columnist or a blogger, you really don't have much to say without that beat reporting.

No, where the real commodification exists is in sports opinion.

Platform no longer matters, really. It used to be that your local newspaper columnist had the authoritative say, if only because he was the only one with the platform.

Now, not only does anyone have a platform, but the best opinion on any given subject is better than what the traditional columnists will put out. The numbers won't let it happen: The more participants, the more entries at BOTH ends of the spectrum:

Obviously, some blog sports opinion is terrible. (As has been pointed out, just like some traditional media sports opinion is terrible.)

But when you find the best, it is better than anything coming from a single mainstream sports voice -- particularly when that single voice is addicted to suckling the teats of either conventional wisdom or kneejerk contrarianism.

Back to my original point: Finding great sports commentary is really really hard. (For a real treat, try transcribing any argument made on TV by a sports pundit -- then remember that sports punditry on TV is typically about entertainment, not smart.)

What is great? Fresh helps (although I build my Quickie franchise on being first, but the decision to be shallow totally undercut that effort).

But "fresh" is more than first: It's a new way of looking at a story -- and it only gets harder as more voices join the cacaphony.

(I love PTI as much as everyone else, but that show is really about the relationship between the hosts; it almost doesn't matter WHAT they say. Consider the last time they advanced something where you said, "Hadn't heard THAT before!")

Within the mainstream sports media opinion world, the emphasis on TV has been on being entertaining, not being interesting or thought-provoking; the emphasis in newspapers has been, let's face it, on trying to get on TV.

Even within blogs, the emphasis mostly has been on being fast or first -- I appreciate that helps to become (or drive) the conversation (and it might even help a site's traffic), but it doesn't necessarily lend itself to consistently great posts.

(It's funny: In the same way that the best blog posts on a particular topic are better than the average mainstream local sports columnist on a particular topic, the best blog comments are regularly better than the best blog post itself -- why great "comments" sections create as much value for a site as the original posts themselves.)

Here is why sports columnists are the ones who rip bloggers: It is THEIR job -- way more than the beat reporter's job -- that is being obliterated by the open-access platforms like blogging. Those columnists are, as they should be, freaked.

They are highly paid -- often the highest-paid people in the sports department. Their ability to drive readers or sales or advertising dollars is, at best, sketchy (if not mythical altogether). Most have one eye on the TV camera or radio deal (which has always made me consider the paradox of the sports-TV pundit who doubles as a full-time newspaper columnist: Either they are phoning in their column now that their time is spent on TV or they were phoning it in before they went on TV -- which was it? It has to be one.)

The best newspapers get it: They let the beat reporters blog, injecting their constant reports with as much opinion (and often clever insights) as their otherwise stodgy editors will allow. It's actually a fantastic model: Give the guys with their ear closest to the ground the additional opportunity to offer opinion -- why do you need a columnist?

(Now, granted, newspaper sports sections are still mostly run by change-averse drones who have little grasp of the power of new-media platforms. However, the newspapers doing this best are REALLY doing great work. One example: The Washington Post's experiments with a beat guy like Svrluga. It takes a reporter who has the time, effort and confidence to pull it off.)

Either that, or finally admit that the 800-word column is dead: 90 percent of the time, the columnist is filling the space with extraneous filler. The "Quickie" style may be TOO shallow, but the reason its brevity connected with so many consumers is because they recognized that, in the end, if you can't make your point in 50 words or less, it ain't worth making. The only reason mainstream sports columnists can't get away with that now is because they and their editors somehow equate length with quality (and, presumably, length with compensation).

That, and the fact that an almighty mainstream sports columnist writing 50-word opinions would be exposed as... just another mediocre blogger.

And why should fans bother to read the mediocre ones when they have so many better choices right now?

That's what should scare columnists about their future: As more people enter the punditry game, the existing players move further and further from the top Nth percentile. When they were the only game in town, that place was theirs exclusively; now that they aren't, they slide down the scale -- decreased column quality because of their TV and radio gigs doesn't help.

But even if they were at the very top of their game, the best of the new voices would provide an equal -- if not more compelling -- alternative.

Big Daddy Drew's post -- a take-down of the quintessential sports columnist of the last quarter-century, in addition to the system that he represents -- was more symbolic than Drew probably intended, and it reinforces what we have seen coming for the last few years. With apologies to John Lennon:

The Era of the Mainstream Sports Columnist is Over. (If you want it to be.) Every time you find a better take on a story from a blogger than the one proffered by your local sports columnist -- or national TV pundit -- you contribute to it.

-- D.S.

Monday 04/14 A.M. Quickie:
Immelman, Lakers, Kapler, Beasley, More

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

Trevor Immelman, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, David Ortiz, Francisco Liriano, Brian Bannister, Tim Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, Greg Maddux, Jeff Neimann, Michael Beasley, Pac-Man Jones, Percy Harvin, Seattle Sonics, Calgary Flames and More!

Why it was "The Meh-sters"...
Why the "Anyone But Tiger" camp won...
Why the Lakers sealed the deal...
Why the Nuggets did too...
Why Cavs-Wiz will be epic...
Why Francisco Liriano ain't the same...
Why Brian Bannister is the new Greg Maddux...
Why Greg Maddux is the old Greg Maddux...
Why Jeff Neimann is the new Evan Longoria...
Why Michael Beasley is obviously going pro...
Why the Gators' offense just got even better...
Why the Calgary Flames are clutch...
Why Seattle NBA fans rule...
And more... after the jump!

More later today. Don't forget to scroll down to see what you missed from the weekend (including a full-on admission that Saturday's Florida Spring Game couldn't possibly have been interesting to anyone but Gator fans). Also, there's a new Varsity Dad post up, for those of you who follow that blog.

-- D.S.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday 04/13 (Very) Quickie

Masters: Tiger is six shots behind Trevor Immelman; seems to me he's got him right where he wants him.

NBA: That was fast -- the Nuggets lost their hold on 8th in the West, losing at Utah while the Warriors beat the Clippers in Oakland. Two games to play for each... The Hornets lost in Sacto, putting them in a tie for first in the West with the Lakers, who play the Spurs today.

MLB: Jeff Francoeur... Gavin Floyd... Justin Upton... Carlos Silva... Bill Hall (and Gabe Kapler!)... Yankees-Red Sox? Still can't get into it...

Frozen Four: B.C. wins the title!

"Revelations" of steroid use in the track world simply don't faze me anymore: Marion Jones? Maurice Greene? Can't we just assume the entire sport is tainted and leave it there?

NFL: Pac-Man Jones wants back in, and he'll re-apply for admission Tuesday. I think Roger Goodell will let him in, but with a quick hook in place.

CFB Spring Games: I happily watched ESPN's love-fest in Gainesville yesterday, but I found myself wondering why any other CFB fan -- no matter how jonesing for college football you might be -- would want to watch. They poured a lot of Florida down viewers' throats.

Tebow looked OK -- he was under the weather; but the real stars were Chris "Poor Man's Percy Harvin" Rainey and USC transfer RB Emmanuel Moody. Kirk Herbstreit, who historically is no fan of Florida, said they had the best offense in the country. We'll see.

There was a lot of talk about the SEC; wow, the SEC is going to be tough. They spent some time going over Georgia's schedule -- it is brutal; UGA could be the best team in the country, but one mistake could cost them a shot at a national title (just like last year).

-- D.S.