Friday, May 30, 2008

Celtics Win East: Damn Impressively, Too

Tell you what: They earned it. Two wins on the road in Detroit, including the close-out game. Pretty damn impressive.

Of course, this now sets up the NBA's dream scenario: Lakers-Celtics for the NBA title. Beyond the "nostalgia factor,"* these were the two best teams of the season, featuring the two most dynamic personalities in the sport -- Kobe and KG.

Here's the reality: If the NBA can't get ratings for this, the league truly is in deep shit.

-- D.S.

(* - Let's set aside how fundamentally sketchy it is that the league has to rely on 20-year-old nostalgia to generate enthusiasm for its championship series.)

More, though Unrelated: Congrats to Sameer Mishra on winning the Spelling Bee. He had the best moment of the entire Bee when, last night, he was given a word that everyone -- including him -- thought was "numbnut." He rallied past it with earnest humor and instantly became a rooting interest. That, and he looked so overwhelmed being interviewed by "sideline reporter" Erin Andrews.

MLB: Cliff Floyd has a walk-off... Jay Bruce has 4 hits (and he scored the game-winning run in the 11th)... Joba going to start Tuesday...

More later.

-- D.S.

Nate Silver Is a Politics Blogger

Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus is one of my favorite analyst-slash-entrepreneurs in all of online sports. Now it turns out that he has been anonymously running a politics blog on the side all along. As a politics AND sports junkie, too, I find this quite an amazing development. -- D.S.

More on MMA's CBS Debut

EliteXC isn't in the best financial shape. They are really relying on Kimbo Slice's star power to drive interest in the sport (but, presumably they hope, the league itself -- it does EliteXC no good if fans realize that UFC is arguably a better product). Here's the dilemma, and Dan Wetzel covered this in his column yesterday, but I wanted to put another spin on it: EliteXC has a vested interest in Kimbo Slice winning. They can either pit him against a tomato can -- hardly the stuff of stirring TV or driving loyalty from new fans -- or they need to rig the result. (You could argue that putting Slice against a dud effectively rigs the result anyway.) Neither is a good option. I remain bullish on MMA, by the way.

Want a primer on MMA? MDS does the hard work. Now it's just on you to take the 3 minutes to read it and sound infinitely smarter for doing so. Is Worth $1.3 Million

So I was sent this blog post yesterday morning when it first came out, and I thought a few things to myself:

(1) If you want to attract attention to your blog, this is a good way to do it.


Seriously, this was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in sports bloggery. Ever.

Start with being worth $1.3 million. I certainly would like to think so. And anyone who is interested in buying it for that much can feel free to contact me. But...come ON.

Then there are a few simple reality-checks: With Leather worth a measly $80K? EDSBS worth $30K? If that was the case, I would hope that any/ever mainstream sports site out there would be beating on Orson's door to acquire EDSBS, even at a 5X multiple of that particular valuation. Also, a site like SMQ (No. 14, directly behind is already "owned" by a network (SB Nation), as is Deadspin and With Leather. How is that different from Fanhouse being owned by AOL? For some reason, TrueHoop was on the list (vastly undervalued, probably because its numbers didn't reflect the post-ESPN integration, which make it ineligible for the list anyway).

Here's a nice way to develop a real valuation, and it doesn't take a Harvard MBA to figure it out: If a blog is earning substantial monthly revenues ALREADY, it is worth a lot...and a lot more than those that aren't. And both those blogs are. (And, btw: I would say that Nick Denton would argue that Deadspin is worth a hell of a lot more than $16M.) There ain't many out there, and THAT is the good list you want to be on.

There is one potential ramification of the list: It was a nice little bit of rudimentary due diligence -- directionally ONLY -- about the most valuable sports blogs.

Any company (perhaps an ad network looking to increase its reach, its traffic and -- most importantly -- its "owned traffic") that wanted to own sports could bundle up all of those sites with sweet deals (and it wouldn't cost you $1.3M for blogs ranked at or near No. 13, I can tell you that much) and basically own the space.

What we really need -- here's a project for you, Jason Gurney -- is someone who can aggregate all of the monthly page views and unique visits totals of all those blogs and actually calculate the type of reach that the Top 100 sports blogs have every month, as compared to -- say -- newspapers or magazines or even mainstream sports sites.

(When you're doing that calc, Jason, don't forget to discount the page views and uniques of mainstream sports sites, the majority of whose content page views come from "commodity" content like AP stories, scoreboards, box scores, recaps and fantasy-team maintenance.)

Anyway, like I said: Anyone who wants to buy this blog for $1.3 million is welcome to it.

-- D.S.

Friday 05/30 A.M. Quickie:
Kobe, MMA, Unit, ChiSox, Collins, More

Who else thinks that dispatching the Spurs was the real test for the Lakers and that the match-up with the survivor in the East -- whether Boston or Detroit -- won't be nearly as tough?

I am no Lakers fan, but I can appreciate the way they ousted the defending champs in 5 games, how they have basically rolled through the playoffs and how Kobe can't be denied.

I stop the bitterness long enough to marvel at the Lakers in my Sporting News column today. (And if the Celtics beat the Pistons -- either tonight or in 7 -- all the folks who think I have an insurmountable anti-Boston bias will see that I can praise them, too.)

(Note my willingness to post comments from yesterday's post about the anti-Allen sentiment -- I respect that there is a different read on it, although some media reports I have seen have been different, particularly in earlier rounds when Allen was really struggling.)

(Let me say now that the Celtics and their fans put themselves in the tough spot: Winning the East isn't enough; it's NBA title or bust, and it has been that way since November. So excuse me if I don't applaud them as they move through the playoffs until they actually reach the one goal that was expected of them when they made the deal of the decade.)

Everyone agrees that winning the West means more than winning the East. I'm not saying that Kobe doesn't want a championship or Lakers fans don't want (or expect) a championship every bit as much as Celtics fans do. But consider the expectations for Lakers fans heading into the season: How about that Kobe would even be on the team in June, let alone leading them to the Finals as the dominant 1-seed in the West.)

Meanwhile, I really wanted to lead the column with MMA's broadcast network TV debut tomorrow night. It's a signature moment for the sport -- if no closer to unjumbling the increasing number of leagues trying to out-UFC the UFC. (It really reminded me of the WWF's broadcast network debut on NBC with "Saturday Night's Main Event" -- anyone else remember that first episode? I'm not saying that MMA is fixed like wrestling; but the similarities are there in terms of mainstream acceptance of a once-fringe entertainment property.)

It might be refreshing for those of you sick of me arguing that the NBA is following in the NHL's footsteps down a path as a "niche" sport to hear that I think that MMA has all the potential in the world to join the NFL, college football and baseball as a "big" sport. Then again, NASCAR thought it would be "big," and it remains merely the largest of the "niche" sports, too. Will casual fans or fans of "mainstream" sports pick up MMA? They have, increasingly, particularly among younger fans.

There's a ton more in the column today. Here's the link to check it out. Posting all weekend, as usual, hopefully with a bonus post or two today.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday 05/29 A.M. Quickie:
Bee, Ray Allen, Bedard, Crosby, More

I got a blissful reprieve from leading with the NBA conference finals this morning (although, to be fair, each morning those results ARE the biggest story in sports), because I wedged my obsession with the spelling bee at the top of my Sporting News column.

If you skip past that (and you can, if you followed yesterday's Bee mania here, below), you can see that I -- a world-class Instant Historian -- think Celtics fans are sort of lame for cheering Ray Allen after ripping him for most of the playoffs before last night's season-saving performance.

Meanwhile, the NBA agreed with me: The refs missed the Brent Barry call. I'm now torn whether they should have said anything. On the one hand, correcting the record is a good thing; on the other, all it does is add insult to the injury done to the Spurs. Again: The difference between 3-1 (with HCA) and 2-2 (even without HCA) is just about as wide a gap as there exists in the 7-game playoff format in pro sports.

MLB: Erik Bedard shows why he was worth the trade... Jay Bruce obsession continues... Matt Garza becomes the latest Ray bandwagon I will jump on... Carlos Quentin and Chase Utley cap solid months that will likely net them MVP awards for "After Two Months of the Season/If The Season Ended Today," likely coming tomorrow.

I appreciate the NBA's interest in cracking down on flopping, but I actually think there is some art to the method; I would be much more interested if the NBA cracked down on players (mostly superstars) who whine after not getting a call.

Here is the complete SN column from today.

More later. I just got the most interesting email with a link to a blog post that will likely have many folks who have sports blogs talking...

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spelling Bee Week: Sriram Hathwar Rules

It's here: The Bee. Tomorrow and Friday. Arguably the greatest novelty sports competition of the year.

As I will remind you endlessly between now and Friday, winning Page 2's "Fantasy Spelling Bee League" three years ago was my finest moment in fantasy sports. Probably forever.

Name to Know: Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, NY, all of 8 years old and the youngest competitor in Bee history. He's in the SECOND GRADE.

I believe that the Hathwar Dynasty will ultimately make the "Samir Patel Dynasty" seem lightweight. Sriram's participation at this age is as if LeBron James joined the NBA... in junior high. (h/t: ALOTTFMA)

UPDATE: Adam from ALOTTFMA emailed me to correct me that there is no real "Patel Dynasty" -- he is the A-Rod of the Bee. And Adam is, of course, totally correct. I have a soft spot for Samir, because he was the foundation of my championship fantasy team. Like anyone who has won a fantasy league with A-Rod, you find it slightly harder to rip the guy.

Honestly: Sriram Hathwar -- the new hotness. Will be a national sensation by tomorrow night. (That said: The smart money is on Kavya Shivashankar, a three-year Bee vet.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday 05/28 A.M. Quickie:
Lakers, Bruce, Triples, Tiger, More

I'm with the rest of you that Joey Crawford blew that call last night. Here's the thing: Aside from what is sure to be a day's worth of scrutiny -- and recrimination -- the fact remains: Lakers up 3-1 with 2 of the final 3 to be played in L.A.

I'm usually not afraid to call a series prematurely, but even the biggest Spurs fan (or Lakers hater) has to be fairly certain that the odds are about as long as they could be for a Spurs comeback -- not the way that HCA has been working for the Lakers this postseason.

That's the lead of my Sporting News column today. See the post below for a link to what I think is the definitive take on the Crawford non-call -- by far the most controversial thing to happen in the playoffs so far, and probably the most controversial on-court moment in the NBA since the Spurs-Suns suspensions a year ago.

(But given the overall perception problems with the refs since the Donaghy scandal, anytime you can link a situation to Donaghy, it's not good for the league. Again: It's not about Crawford throwing the game, but it IS about terrible judgment by a ref that has massive impact.)

Consider that impact for a second: It basically seals the series for the Lakers, which seals the Western Conference title for the Lakers -- it guarantees at least half the Finals pairing will be super-duper-stardom, a best-case scenario for the NBA.

It also ousts the defending champs -- a virtual dynasty, though also a bane to the NBA's interests in finding the biggest TV audience possible.

And, of course, it calls into question the capabilities of refs in the NBA. It isn't a stretch to think that dozens of the best NBA refs were sitting at home, watching that game's ending and wincing -- perhaps even shouting out "No!" -- knowing the shitstorm coming their way as a group.

Anyway, that's where we stand.

Meanwhile, the Jay Bruce Era has begun and the hype is so for real. You will regret not picking him up for your fantasy team weeks ago and just storing him on the bench. I certainly do.

As of today, if you needed one NL pitcher for the rest of the season, would you take Tim Lincecum or Brandon Webb? I might go Lincecum.

Unassisted triple play > triple steal. Hands-down. Although to have one team do both within a week or so of each other isn't bad at all.

Those of you who read regularly know that I think Kevin Love is totally legit -- both as the best player in college hoops last season and as a pro prospect. You will hear no complaints from me that he is being thrown into the mix as the first player taken after the Rose-Beasley lock at 1-2.

Complete SN column here.

More later. (Couple new snall posts over at Varsity Dad, if you occasionally drop by that blog. Bunch of cool stuff lined up for it for June, btw.)

-- D.S.

Yes, That Was a Foul

Leave it to Henry Abbott for the early and definitive word on last night's game-/series-/league-changing non-call by Joey Crawford on that Barry 3 over Fisher.

For those of us who think the NBA is ever-so-slightly rigged (but only when the possibility presents itself), this was "Exhibit A" fodder.

The NBA's original sin was having Joey Crawford ref this game, knowing his history with the Spurs. Even if Crawford's non-call was merely sketchy, the NBA's call to have him work the game was entirely intentional.

More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday 05/27 A.M. Quickie:
McDyess, Kazmir, Bruce, Harkleroad, More

Today's Sporting News column is packed full of all sorts of good stuff:

The Celtics regressing to the mean...
Brandon Webb regressing to the mean...
Scott Kazmir and the Rays NOT regressing to the mean...
Jay Bruce making his MLB debut...
Chris Osgood blanking another Stanley Cup game...
Ashley Harkleroad not impressing me...
Indy Car racing showcasing a "Tiger" strategy...
And a lot more... after the jump.

More later. Again: Try to avoid moving, if you can.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday 05/26 (Very) Quickie

NBA West finals hold to form: Spurs return to San Antonio and win, this time behind Manu's 30 (which offset Kobe's own 30). Proof is in Game 4.

Danica doesn't win the Indy 500: Your sport is in trouble when the team/athlete that doesn't win is a bigger story than the one that does win.

MLB: You have to love a walk-off HR in the 18th inning (Adrian Gonzalez)... Aaron Cook: CG win for his 7th W of the season... Also in the 7-win Club: Mark Hendrickson... Another game, another game-winning hit for Evan Longoria... Clayton Kershaw's MLB debut: 7 Ks in not-too-many IP

Yes, I saw Joakim Noah was busted for pot possession. Is that really that bad? If you figured out everyone in the NBA who ever possessed pot, you wouldn't have much of a league left...

Congrats to the Northwestern women's lacrosse team, which captured its 4th straight NCAA title...

Ashley Harkleroad to be in Playboy: I think that we're past the point of being surprised -- let alone shocked -- when an athlete appears in Playboy (or in Maxim or the SI Swimsuit Issue, which is effectively the same thing). It's just not a big deal...

Triple Crown Watch: How much will Big Brown's cracked hoof hurt its chances of capturing a Triple Crown and racing immortality?...

Enjoy the day off, if you've got one...

-- D.S.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday 05/25 (Very) Quickie

Boston beats Detroit in Game 3: Now THIS was the win that everyone was waiting to see from the Celtics -- on the road, and it wasn't even close. I can now (finally) believe that this team can win the East title.

Indy 500 is today: Unless Danica Patrick wins, expect this to have just as much national resonance as it usually has (which means, frankly, not much). If she DOES win, you'll be sorry you missed it. Maybe.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Penguins weren't ready for prime-time, after that 4-0 shellacking from the Wings.

MLB: Jeff Francoeur... Justin Duscherer... Magglio Ordonez... Kyle Lohse... Jason Bay...

College LAX Final Four is always kind of awesome: Perennial power Johns Hopkins dispatched No. 1 seed Duke; they will meet Syracuse in a matchup of classic lacrosse teams.

Soccer: Imagine a team firing a coach immediately after they lost in the championship game. That is Chelsea and ex-manager Avram Grant. It's like if Mark Cuban had fired Avery Johnson after he choked away the NBA Finals two years ago, rather than a tortured 2 years later.

-- D.S.