Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday 09/06 (Very) Quickie

Dateline: Chicago -- Big topic of conversation? Carlos Quentin's injury. Does it spike his MVP chances? Does it spike the White Sox's playoff chances? Topic No. 2: Notre Dame's season opener. (You know how I feel about THAT.)

Meanwhile, it's a college football Saturday, so I'm settled in. I have no faith that Ohio will hold on against Ohio State (love Boo Jackson!), but unless OSU is trying to snow USC into taking them lightly, it doesn't look good for the Buckeyes next week in L.A.

Game Day is in Gainesville. I'm in Chicago. It's a good day.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 05, 2008

NFL Week 1 Picks

The tradition continues. This year, instead of simply making picks, straight up, I'll actually incorporate the spread (these are the same picks I put in the DQ Readers Pick 'Em group). I fully anticipate the same crappy results:

Lions (-2.5) over FALCONS
BILLS (-.5) over Seahawks
Jaguars (-3.5) over TITANS
DOLPHINS (+2.5) over Jets
PATS (-16.5) over Chiefs*
SAINTS (-3.5) over Bucs
EAGLES (-7.5) over Rams
STEELERS (-6.5) over Texans
Bengals (+0.5) over RAVENS
CHARGERS (-9.5) over Panthers
Cards (-2.5) over 49ERS
Cowboys (-3.5) over BROWNS
COLTS (-9.5) over Bears*
Vikings (+2.5) over PACKERS
Broncos (-1.5) over RAIDERS

Home teams in ALL CAPS
* - Won't cover

YTD: 1-0

CFB Top 25 Picks and Preview

This isn't good: I didn't pick a single upset. That doesn't mean there isn't intrigue. From today's SN column:
Georgia has to match up with Dan "Tebow Lite" LeFevour... We'll see how Ohio State looks without Beanie Wells... Oklahoma gets a handful in fiesty Cincy (Upset Special I'm too timid to pick?)... Classic in-state rivalry between Florida and The U... After last week's win over VA Tech, can East Carolina pull another stunner over WVU?... Auburn better watch out for high-flying Southern Miss (set school record for offense last week)... Suddenly, Arizona St-Stanford is actually kind of compelling... Revamped Ole Miss is a quality test for Wake Forest... Hey, Notre Dame fans: Let me know how winning feels. I know it's been a while...
(2) Georgia over Central Michigan
(3) Ohio St over Ohio
(4) Oklahoma over Cincinnati - GOTW
(5) Florida over Miami
(6) Missouri over SE Missouri St
(7) LSU over Troy PPD
(8) West Virginia over @East Carolina
(9) Auburn over Southern Miss
(10) Texas over @UTEP
(11) Wisconsin over Marshall
(12) Texas Tech over Nevada
(13) Alabama over Tulane
(14) Kansas over LA Tech
(15) BYU over @Washington
(15) Arizona St over Stanford
(17) South Florida over @Central Fla
(18) Oregon over Utah St.
(19) Penn St over Oregon St
(20) Wake Forest over Ole Miss
(22) Utah over UNLV
(24) Illinois over E. Illinois

Other games of interest:
Georgia Tech over @Boston College
Michigan over Miami (OH)
Notre Dame over San Diego St.
Northwestern over @Duke

Friday 09/05 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Picks, CFB Picks, Weekend Preview

I'll be in Chicago this weekend, digesting the sports scene -- Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Northwestern and otherwise -- in my old stomping grounds, maybe the city where I feel most at home.

(Unfortunately, the Cubs are on the road, as is Northwestern, which isn't even on TV. Sheesh. Ah well, I'm watching the Gators on ESPN with my family anyway.)

I'm flying out before my SN column is posted, but here's the main bookmark link, and the column should be there after 9 a.m.

Coming at 10:30 a.m.: CFB Top 25 Picks
Coming at Noon: NFL Picks

I'm just setting myself up for more NFL Picks punishment this season, after last season's worst-ever debacle.

I'll be posting all weekend from the road. Probably some Twitter, too.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Believe in Now: Believe in Hunh?

I'm still trying to figure out what "Believe in Now" means, and why it makes for a good slogan to start the new NFL season. ("Is It Monday Yet?" remains the gold standard of NFL slogans of the past decade or so.)

-- D.S.

Varsity Letters Tonight: Dave Zirin Matters

Fantastic Varsity Letters event tonight, if you live in NYC:

Dave Zirin, one of my favorite writers and favorite people in sports media. He's got a fantastic new book out: "A People's History of Sports in the United States." (h/t: H. Zinn)

I did a Varsity Letters event with Zirin earlier this year -- he puts on an amazing show. He did his entire thing extemporaneously, and it was fascinating with high energy.

Zirin manages to do phenomenally well what few -- if any -- in sports do at all: Write about topics of gravitas. But he does it without being dour or preachy -- in the least.

In fact, part of his admirable ability is that he tackles extremely weighty subjects but makes them entirely accessible through powerful, clear-eyed analysis. I envy that tremendously.

It's a hell of a challenge to distill the past 250 years of sports into 300 pages and focus mainly on the intersection of American sports and its socio-political context. And Zirin nails it.

He plays a unique and critical role in the sports media ecosystem -- a fearless and independent critic and thinker. I would rank him on the short list of the best sportswriters in America.

If you're around the area, I highly recommend checking him out tonight -- more than that, I recommend the book highly. It made my "Put on my 'display' shelf to keep for good" list.

(Also reading tonight will be my former ESPN colleague Buster Olney -- who has better insights into the Yankees than anyone and who should have an interesting take, given the Yankees are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time this fall. Olney is one of the best guys at ESPN, and he has worked hard to turn himself into a very very good radio and TV news analyst. Also appearing tonight will be Harvey Frommer, who published an oral history of Yankee Stadium. So if you're a Yankees fan, tonight's event is even more must-see.)

Here are the details and the always-amazing interviews with the participants.

It's at 8 tonight. Happy Ending. 302 Broome on the Lower East Side. And it's FREE.

-- D.S.

Thursday 09/04 A.M. Quickie:
NFL SB Pick, Brady, Beanie, Replay, More

Don't forget to sign up for the NFL Pick 'Em. See post below.

Speaking of picks, in my SN column today, I feel like I copped out by picking the Pats over the Cowboys for the Super Bowl. The whole exercise seemed rote: I feel like 5 of 6 AFC playoff teams are locks (NE, IND, PIT, SD, JAX), with the 6th -- Giants 07 notwithstanding -- being fairly irrelevant. The NFC -- again Giants '07 notwithstanding -- is uninspiring, beyond the Cowboys, the defending champs and perhaps the designated "sexy" pick, Minnesota. Pats over Cowboys? I grade myself with a "Meh."

Meanwhile, instant replay in baseball didn't have to result in overturning an ump's call in order to be deemed a huge success. The mere fact that they checked makes it worthwhile -- I'd be thrilled if there wasn't a single ump's call that was overturned between now and the end of the season.

So: Are Cubs fans freaked out yet? 5 losses in a row, Zambrano with an MRI today and Rich Harden on what feels like a month's rest between starts, which makes the likelihood of his effectiveness in a 5- or 7-game series in October...iffy, enough that it should worry Cubs fans.

CFB: I will be equal opportunity here -- Ohio State shouldn't even THINK about playing Beanie Wells this weekend, one week ahead of the make-or-break game at USC. I suspect they won't chance it. In the same way, Florida shouldn't even think about playing Percy Harvin this weekend against Miami, two weeks ahead of the SEC opener at Tennessee. They don't need him; if anything, last Saturday proved that the team has "Harvin-Lite" game-breakers in Rainey and Demps and James. Save him for when they DO need him.

Picks: Complete weekend CFB and NFL picks coming tomorrow, but there are two picks to make for tonight, and I'm sure it'll get me off to my usual banner start with the NFL:

Giants over Redskins.
Vanderbilt over South Carolina.

More later. Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

NFL Weekly Pick 'Em: Last Chance!

Sign up now. Group name: Daily Quickie Readers. No password necessary. Show up and prove that you know more than the rest of us -- certainly me.

NBA Blogger Table of Elements

This is quite an impressive effort. Kudos to Matt and the Hardwood Paroxysm crew. (And I'm not even listed -- not that I deserve to be in any way. I'm just saying: I don't just link to these things when they include me, dammit.)

Wednesday 09/03 A.M. Quickie:
NFL 08, CFB Top 25, Rudi, Dustin, More

The Giants' win in Super Bowl XLII is arguably the most important result in the NFL in the last three decades. Why? Because it shattered the smog of inevitability that had descended on the league in the wake of the Pats' "perfect season." It reminded fans that anything can happen.

That is the lead of today's SN column, Part 1 of a two-day preview of the NFL season (continuing tomorrow with my playoff picks, which I'll try to preview here today but will certainly discuss tomorrow).

Meanwhile, I can't get worked up over USC jumping Georgia for No. 1 in the CFB polls for two reasons: (1) I did the same thing in my BlogPoll ballot (below), and (2) Georgia, no matter how it did these first 3 weeks, was going to get jumped by the USC-Ohio State winner anyway.

Tatum Bell stealing Rudi Johnson's bags when Johnson got to Detroit is one of the funniest stories I have heard all year.

Dustin Pedroia for AL MVP? Let's start with AL Player of the Week, how about that? If the White Sox fall short of the playoffs and voters hold that against Carlos Quentin, I could actually see Pedroia gathering some momentum -- but only if he maintains his ludicrous pace of the last week.

Speaking of momentum, should Cubs fans get worried? That's 4 Ls in a row and arm trouble for Carlos Zambrano. (I'm going to Chicago this weekend for the first time this year, and I'm looking forward to taking the temperature of fans out there -- even if the Cubs aren't in town...d'oh.)

It's Oklahoma City Thunder. Consider yourself spoiled.

Congrats to Tiger and Elin on her latest pregnancy. What I would like to see is a double-date featuring Tiger, Elin, Bristol and Levi.

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Week 1 CFB BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot, Take 2

1 Southern Cal 2
2 Ohio State --
3 Georgia 1
4 Oklahoma 1
5 Florida 4
6 LSU 7
7 Missouri 1
8 West Virginia 1
9 Auburn 1
10 Texas 1
11 Texas Tech 1
12 Wisconsin 2
13 Brigham Young 3
14 Alabama 12
15 Wake Forest 7
16 Kansas 3
17 South Florida 2
18 Utah 6
19 Penn State 1
20 Arizona State 1
21 Oregon 5
22 Oklahoma State 4
23 UCLA 3
24 Connecticut 2
25 Northwestern --

Dropped Out: Clemson (#9), Tennessee (#17), Virginia Tech (#18), Illinois (#23).

Tuesday 09/02 A.M. Quickie:
UCLA, Cliff Lee, Tom Brady, NFL, More

Summer's over. The new sports year is on. Just in time, UCLA provided the most intriguing and surprising result of the college football weekend -- saving the best for last, I guess.

UCLA, Cliff Lee and Tom Brady are the biggest storylines from today's SN column.

I'm definitely shocked by the Bruins' win over Tennessee -- probably not as shocked as Vols fans (or perhaps USC fans).

I'm less shocked by Fresno State's win at Rutgers -- I picked it Friday (then again, I picked LSU to lose to App State, so there's that). That makes 3 clear BCS-busters among non-BCS teams: BYU, Utah and Fresno State. BYU and Utah end the season playing each other, so that sorts that out; Fresno's "big" game is in two weeks, when they host Wisconsin. After that, beyond a season-killing endgame vs. Boise State, they could be the ones. (Hey, how about Fresno State vs. the Utah-BYU survivor in a Cinderella BCS Bowl? Watched by no one, of course.)

Anyway, it's nice to see Cliff Lee salvaging the Indians' otherwise lost season. He's going to run away with the AL Cy -- he's having a truly sick season.

Hey, Brewers GM Doug Melvin agrees with me that hometown "official scorers" shouldn't be the final arbiter of rulings on the field.

(Although reader Chase O. points out that if CC had been given the error, rather than the hit, who knows how his psyche would have held up as the pressure mounted. Fair enough, but given the season he is having so far, I would have liked to have at least seen him get the chance.)

Tom Brady thinks internet rumors about his health are ridiculous: I'm considering the source of those rumors (who? who?), but it's not like he or Belichick would let on anyway.

(I'm sticking with my original prediction: That Brady wouldn't necessarily be hurt now, but assuredly later in the season. He's so due. Does that count as a rumor, too?)

A few other names to know: Joe Flacco! Rudi Johnson! Robinho! Koby Clemens!

Catch you later today. If you haven't weighed in on my Top 25 ballot this week (take 1), put it in the comments in the post below -- don't worry: Tennessee is dropping out; Fresno is in.

Full SN column here

-- D.S.

Monday, September 01, 2008

BlogPoll Week 1: First Pass

1 Southern Cal 2
2 Ohio State --
3 Georgia 1
4 Oklahoma 1
5 LSU 8
6 Missouri --
7 West Virginia --
8 Florida 7
9 Auburn 1
10 Texas 1
11 Texas Tech 1
12 Wisconsin 2
13 Brigham Young 3
14 Tennessee 3
15 Wake Forest 7
16 Alabama 10
17 Kansas 2
18 South Florida 3
19 Utah 5
20 Penn State --
21 Arizona State --
22 Oregon 6
23 Oklahoma State 3
24 Bowling Green 2
25 Northwestern --

Dropped Out: Clemson (#9), Virginia Tech (#18), Illinois (#23).

Chime in to the Comments with your reactions, suggestions, corrections, etc. I'm almost certainly going to add the Fresno State-Rutgers winner and move Tennessee up or down, depending on how things go tonight at UCLA.

Monday 09/01 A.M. Quickie:
Sabathia, CFB Wrap, Clemson, Beanie, More

Yep, I'm working on Labor Day: How about you? (Let's hope not, if you can help it.)

That said: I'm all over this CC Sabathia "no-no-or-no?" thing from yesterday. The inanity of allowing local "official scorer" rulings to go unchecked by MLB is the lead of the SN column.

But the meat of the column is a rundown of the biggest takeaways from the weekend in college football: Clemson proving the awesomeness of the CFB regular season; Beanie Wells as existential crisis; Michigan as the least surprising result of the season; and the futility of trying to rank teams after this past weekend (less futile than a preseason rank, however) -- although I will still try.

Here is the complete SN column. I'm almost ready to put up this week's BlogPoll Top 25 ballot for your review and suggestions. Check back a little later. And go enjoy the day off, for god's sake. And think good thoughts for the Gulf Coast right now.

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday 08/31 (Very) Quickie

The biggest story from Saturday is: Beanie Wells' foot.

Clemson totally illustrates the glorious win-or-fail existentialism of the CFB regular season.

(And it's hard to read whether Alabama is actually good or Clemson is that bad or whether it's just that the SEC is better than the ACC or what...)

I thought Mizzou's secret strength was its defense? (But with that offense, how much D do they need?)

What should trouble Michigan fans most is that the loss to Utah wasn't a surprise at all.

Bobby Petrino is VERY lucky.

Frank Beamer is not.

The No. 1 Heisman contender after Week 1 is: Pat White.

(The nation's most dominant RB is: PJ Hill.)

The No. 1 team in the country is: USC.

MLB: 2 HR for MVP Manny (*-MVP only if the Dodgers win the West)

NFL: Remember when Rudi Johnson was good?

NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins...AGAIN?

NBA: So Monta Ellis was lying about his injury? Fascinating...

I'm going to try to have my BlogPoll Top 25 ballot up here by early tomorrow morning for your feedback and review, before I submit my final version on Tuesday. A sneak peek of where my head is at:

1. USC
2. Ohio St (implied huge "if")
3. Georgia
4. Oklahoma
5. Missouri
6. LSU
7. West Virginia
8. Florida
9. Auburn
10. Texas

If Wells isn't healthy, I'm not sure where to rank Ohio State. If he can't play in the USC game, I don't think they'll win there. But if I think USC is the best team in the country, presumably I don't think ANY team can beat them right now.

Feel free to weigh in with your own observations from Saturday in the Comments.

-- D.S.