Saturday, October 18, 2008

CFB Saturday Viewing Guide and Live-Blog

Early Evening: Well, Penn State certainly turned that around. Meanwhile, Alabama nearly lost it. (That said: Michigan is terrible, while Ole Miss is probably the best 3-4 team in the country in years.)

Oklahoma has blown the doors off Kansas -- honestly, is it fair to ask whether Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are better than Penn State? Let's lose the Paterno Bias, shall we? Call me after Penn State thumps Ohio State similar to the way USC did.

Late Afternoon
: Penn State WTF?!?!?!... On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama is quieting doubters by thumping a fiesty Ole Miss... Ohio State is creeping back into Top 10 territory (but they really aren't a great team by any stretch)...

Early Afternoon:
Vandy's D is really tough, but Georgia's offense is not what it was a year ago... Texas Tech left little doubt this week... Big big homecoming win for Northwestern

Noon: Purdue at Northwestern
(P-i-P: Vandy/Georgia - GamePlan)
Update: Added TX Tech/TX A&M
3:30: Ole Miss at Alabama (CBS)
(Tracking: Ohio St/Mich St - ABC
(Tracking: Kansas/Oklahoma - ABC)
4:30: Michgan at Penn St (ESPN)
(Only to track size of blowout. Update: OR NOT)
8:00: Missouri at Texas (ABC)
(Tracking: LSU at S. Carolina- ESPN)
(Tracking-ish: VA Tech at BC - ESPN2)

Saturday A.M. (Very) Quickie

Boise State is still undefeated -- and, aside from Oregon, still rocking a terrible strength of schedule that shouldn't surprise you when they aren't ranked anywhere near the BCS-eligible Top 12.

GMs get job security that managers do not: For the Brewers, Doug Melvin will be back; Dale Sveum will not. "Interim" was just that, even after leading the team to the playoffs.

Will Tony Romo play tomorrow? Honestly: THIS is what passes for drama in the NFL these days?

Joey Porter fined for ripping refs: And, as with virtually every fine in every pro sports league, there is absolutely nothing to keep him or anyone else from ripping refs again. I'm glad he was willing to say it -- and pay it. Sometimes refs need to be called out.

Midnight Madness: There's AP coverage from the big names (UNC, Kansas, Memphis, O.G. Midnight Madness Maryland). But did any readers go to the Indiana practice? Did you recognize ANYONE on the court?

Kirk Ferentz suspends own son from Iowa football team: Seriously, this guy still has a job? His own SON joins the long list of trouble-makers.

I checked out my Wizards yesterday, playing in Barcelona and my first real look at the 08-09 teams. And wow: Without Arenas and Jamison and even Haywood, they are not going to be good. But if you took 2 of the Top 3 stars plus the starting center from ANY NBA team, they wouldn't be good.

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in the movie adaptation of "Moneyball?" I love that. I'm still not sure how they pull off the movie in a way that won't appeal exclusively to wonky baseball fans -- there's a natural movie-plot-required "conflict," but it's between SABR guys and scouts. This isn't exactly cops vs. crooks (although "good guys vs. bad guys" isn't a stretch).

Usually, I watch nothing but college football on Saturdays, but I'm going to have Rays-Red Sox Game 6 on in some form or another.

Usual CFB "what I'm watching" list and live-blog coming later this morning.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 17, 2008

CFB Wknd Preview and Picks: Texas, Again

It's the final weekend of games before the first BCS rankings are released. For a team like Missouri, it's now or never -- nothing like a game at No. 1 Texas to stake your season on.

Bama has a bit of a trap game vs. Ole Miss -- just ask Florida. Penn State will thump Michigan and it shouldn't do much for JoePa's strength of schedule. On the other end, among 1-loss teams, Oklahoma will get a boost for playing (and beating) a Kansas team in the Top 20. (Same for Georgia with a win over Vandy.)

(1) Texas over (11) Mizzou - GOTW
(2) Alabama over Ole Miss
(3) Penn St over Michigan
(4) Oklahoma over (16) Kansas
(6) USC over @Washington St
(7) Texas Tech over @Texas A&M
(8) Oklahoma St over Baylor
(9) BYU over @TCU -- locked Thursday -- D'OH
(10) Georgia over (22) Vandy
(20) Michigan St over (12) Ohio St
(13) LSU over @South Carolina
(14) Utah over Colorado St.
(15) Boise St. over Hawaii -- locked Friday
(17) VA Tech over @Boston College
(18) UNC over @Virginia
(19) South Florida over Syracuse
(21) Wake Forest over @Maryland
Navy over (23) Pitt
Arizona over (25) Cal

Other Games of Note:
Georgia Tech over Clemson
Western Michigan over Central Michigan
Kansas St over Colorado
Tulsa over UTEP

Friday 10/17 A.M. Quickie:
Rays, Red Sox, BYU, Romo, Kobe, More

In a worst-case scenario, last night's Red Sox comeback -- sorry: epic, first-time-since-1929 comeback -- yields a Rays collapse and a Red Sox ALCS title.

In a best-case scenario, last night's win gives Red Sox Nation just enough hope that they actually think they have a shot, before James Shields slams the door on them at the Trop on Saturday.

As today's SN column illustrates, I'm totally torn. We have been here before.

Still: The Rays had their boot on the neck of the defending champs, 7 outs away and 7 runs up, and couldn't seal the deal. You've got to crush the Red Sox when you have the chance.

Meanwhile, speaking of chances and worst-case scenarios, that's BYU fans today. They didn't just lose at TCU (underrated TCU); they got clobbered so badly I wouldn't be surprised if they dropped out of my Top 25 entirely. BCS? Please. Any BCS-busting hopes sit with Utah right now -- and the Utes still have to play both BYU... and TCU. (Both in SLC, though.) Boise State, too.

When your team has a bye week, college football Saturdays are so much different. I'm excited to watch Texas-Missouri (and watching Penn State decimate Michigan will be fun too), but it's just not the same when you don't have your team to hub your day around. Still: Live-blogging tomorrow, as usual.

Finally, if you care at all about blogs and blogging -- and presumably you do at at least some level, because you consume them -- this essay by Andrew Sullivan is a must-read. Sullivan is perhaps my favorite blogger (certainly non-sports) and he is a master of the form. I'd love to figure out a way this weekend to write my own version of this -- not nearly as compelling, but perhaps just for the time capsule.

Complete SN column here. More later, I'm hoping. Although at this point, a few days into two-child parenting, I probably just want to sleep all day.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday 10/16 A.M. Quickie:
Phillies, Rays, BYU, Romo, Clips, More

Some might think I'm dogging Phillies fans in the lead of today's SN column. Far from it.

Few fan bases are more complex -- or have more complex relationships with their teams (not to mention complex relationships with success and defeat) -- than Philly fans.

What makes the Phillies such dramatic entrants in the World Series is that whether they win or lose, Philly fans will freak out. Roughly in the same way, which makes it all the more interesting.

Meanwhile, tonight could be the night for the Rays -- another step in their Cinderella journey: Dispatching the defending champs... the best-run team in baseball... in their house.

I know most folks are probably uninspired by the idea of a Tampa-Philly World Series (I can't imagine the ratings). But I love it: MLB's ultimate Cinderella story vs. the MLB fans who put the hard-ass in "hard-luck."

In college football, it's actually a really good game tonight: BYU at TCU. They are both in the Top 5 of non-BCS teams. BYU is the top contender to be this year's BCS-buster. If you haven't watched them this season -- beyond highlights -- this is your chance to be impressed... or not. TCU has about as stout of a D that there is among non-BCS teams (or, frankly, among BCS teams, too). The game being at TCU makes it all the more challenging for BYU, whose schedule ain't particularly tough -- beyond this game and the season finale vs. Utah.

Is it me, or does this season's Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday NFL coverage seem particularly lame? There just isn't much drama, and most weeks' games have lacked those signature moments or results that drive the conversation for a week. (No: Undefeated Titans or the Wildcat or the Raiders mess don't count. And all-Cowboys-all-the-time is really wearying...already.)

NBA: I have an odd fascination with Clippers rookie Mike Taylor, because -- beyond Brandon Jennings -- he represents a very unique path to the NBA: Drafted into the league directly from the D-League, after he washed out of college hoops. Aside from the money thing, why wouldn't a player go from high school to the D-League for a year, rather than play a year of college hoops. You get SOME money -- and maybe a shoe deal or other endorsements. And the D-League would LOVE you, probably making you their signature player of the season.

Taylor had a big game last night. (Perhaps not as big as Clips rookie teammate Eric Gordon, but a very good all-around game. He's NBA-ready and a draft-night steal.)

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday 10/15 A.M. Quickie:
Rays, Phillies, Pac-Man, Clemson, More

Sincere thanks to all who emailed or commented their best wishes on yesterday's news.

Since around May, I have been trying to come up with a Grand Unifying Theory for the Rays. In today's SN column, inspired by last night's Rays win at Fenway -- putting Tampa up 3-1 in the ALCS -- I think I have found it. I'm going to republish today's column lead in full, because I want the peer review:
The Rays are not the Yankees. Or the Indians, for that matter.

And that is why there will be no Red Sox comeback from being down 3-1 in the ALCS, like they did last season against Cleveland. Or like '04 against New York.

More than anything, these Rays lack a sense of entitlement -- and that missing historical and emotional baggage is its killer advantage, why it is beating the brains out of Boston.

Some might argue that entitlement is swagger and "swag" is a prerequisite for any would-be champ.

But I would say that it is harder to beat a team that doesn't know how good it is-- or, at least, won't let it get to their heads after a franchise history of nothing but losing -- than a team that thinks the name on the front of its jersey demands deference.

And the (METAPHORICAL) names on the back of the Red Sox jerseys aren't having much success either: The Rays followed up a shellacking of historically dominant postseason ace Josh Beckett by throttling Jon Lester, who had been untouchable this postseason.

The barrage of home runs (3 more last night, 7 total in 2 ALCS games at Fenway) is the byproduct of how loose this Rays team is.

In the same way that Red Sox fans don't see the Rays as their "rival," the Rays have no reason to fear the Red Sox mystique.

After a decade of sucking, the Rays are unfazed by expectations – perhaps even immune. The team's "9=8" mantra means that all they focus on is the inning at hand, the single game they are playing.

For a team with as sorry of a history as the Rays, that was the only mindset that could work: Ignore history. Don't self-reflect. Aren't both what doomed both the '04 Yankees and '08 Indians?

Cinderella looked good, but she wouldn't really be the star of the party if she KNEW how hot she was.

Meanwhile, I step out for one day and the Phillies look ready to make the World Series; the Giants (and NFC East) suddenly look fairly average; and Clemson finally tires of Tommy Bowden (talk about expectations management). Full SN column here.

More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sorry, Tim: Welcome Jonah Ryan Shanoff!

Here's the best Quickie update I could imagine: Jonah Ryan Shanoff was born at 12:50 this morning, a healthy and happy baby boy.

For those of you who had "Tim" (or, god love ya, "Tebow")  in the baby-name office pool, please feel free to rip up your stubs.

For those of you -- and there were several, amazingly -- who had "Ryan" pegged as at least one of the two names, you get half-credit.

(Although the "Ryan" is in honor of my wife's grandmother; any link to, say, Ryan Braun -- only the greatest active Jewish baseball player -- is thrilling coincidence.)

My wife is the hero of this story. She was phenomenal. Meanwhile, I can't wait to put our two boys together to form an unstoppably nebbishy JCC summer-league backcourt.

(While we are bringing back our mohel for the coming bris, that shouldn't stop Tim Tebow from joining us. You have an open invitation, Tim!)

-- D.S.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Deadspin's Greatest Baby Shower Gift Ever

Hat-tip to Deadspin weekend maven Josh Zerkle on a post so fantastically absurd -- brought upon myself, of course -- that I may have to print it out and put it in a frame above the new kid's crib.

Monday 10/13 A.M. Quickie:
NLCS, Redskins, Pats, Texas, Bama, More

No baby yet!

Which fan base is most pissed this morning? That's not how I put it in today's SN column, but that's the essence of it.

Is it the Phillies fans? They don't ever need much of a reason, let alone a "brush-down" pitch en route to a 7-2 Game 3 clobbering in L.A.

Is it the Redskins fans? Beat the Cowboys and Eagles on the road, then lose at home to the Rams. Yeesh.

Is it Alabama fans? They arguably "lost" their bye week, vaulted by Texas. (Or is it Penn State fans, seemingly well behind both the Big 12 and SEC leaders in terms of BCS respect.)

I have to say Phillies. Just because they're always a little pissed, and actually doing something to make them pissed will make 'em even more feral.

NFL: The Redskins choked. The Cowboys choked. The Vikings were lucky. The Falcons are mystifying. Dan Orlovsky is a punch-line. Reggie Bush should be classified as a WR in fantasy.

And the Pats are a shadow of their '07 selves. The Chargers are a very good team -- record notwithstanding. And the Pats were working on a second straight West Coast game. Still: They got shellacked, and the offense feels limp. (You know what QB would make it on 4th-and-1? Tebow. He sure will look good -- if soul-crushing to me personally -- in a Pats uni next season.) I put this out there in the column: Is there any more evidence how valuable Brady is to the Pats than their current state?

CFB: Be sure to scroll down to the post below and weigh in on my BlogPoll Top 25 ballot. will post the consensus ballot later this morning, but -- as always -- I'll take your comments into consideration before filing my final ballot tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, I'm glad the poll voters -- AP, Coaches, Harris -- saw the wisdom of putting Texas No. 1. (Additionally, putting Bama and Penn State 2 and 3.)

I will say this: Oklahoma State is getting screwed, and here's why: They didn't generate a single vote in the preseason poll, so they have had to overcome THAT all season long, which is why they are where they are -- rather than at No. 4, which is where I have them.

They beat Mizzou at Mizzou for god's sake; as far as resumes go, that is arguably the best win of the year by any Top 25 team (Texas beating Oklahoma, while impressive, came on a neutral field and by a fellow Top 5 team).

I must have seen that new Nike Football commercial with LT and Polamalu about 12 times this weekend, and it still hasn't gotten old.

Complete SN column here. More later. (Unless there's labor.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot, Take 1: Texas No. 1

1 Texas 2
2 Alabama 2
3 Penn State 3
4 Oklahoma State 12
5 Oklahoma 4
6 Florida 8
7 Brigham Young --
8 Texas Tech --
9 Utah 2
10 Southern Cal --
11 Georgia 2
12 LSU 7
13 Missouri 11
14 Boise State 2
15 Ohio State --
16 Kansas 3
17 Michigan State 4
18 South Florida --
19 Vanderbilt 10
20 Wake Forest 6
21 TCU 4
22 Ball State 5
23 Tulsa 3
24 North Carolina 2
25 Minnesota 1

Dropped Out: Northwestern (#22), Georgia Tech (#23), Cincinnati (#24).

Suday 10/12 (Very) Quickie: Who's No. 1?

Nope, no baby yet. Meanwhile, did you hear Eric Mangini named his new baby after Brett Favre? Seriously: That makes even a half-serious consideration of naming my kid after Tim Tebow seem legitimate.

CFB Mania: Wow, as bad as I felt when Florida lost to Ole Miss two weeks ago, it felt sooo good watching them rout LSU last night. That was about as well as I have ever seen them play a regular-season game in the Meyer Era. It should also make the following debate fairly clear-cut:

Who's No. 1 in college football? Who's No. 1 in the polls, and who will be No. 1 in the initial BCS ranking?

My pick: Texas. Yes, Alabama has 2 wins over then-Top-10 teams (including on the road at Georgia), but Clemson now gets heavily discounted. And Texas beat the No. 1 team in the country (and Oklahoma sure looked good enough to be the 2nd-best team in the country).

I'll get the BlogPoll ballot up this morning, hopefully, but here's the Top 10: (1) Texas; (2) Bama; (3) Penn State; (4) Oklahoma St; (5) Oklahoma; (6) Florida; (7) BYU; (8) Texas Tech; (9) Utah; (10) USC. Georgia, LSU and Missouri are 11-12-13.

Here's the reality: As long as Texas and Bama keep winning (big big assumption), they will meet for the national title. Can't say the same thing about Penn State, which looks dominant, but is doing it against feeble Big Ten comp (see Ohio State, either of the last two years). What does it say that Penn State's best win was against a .500 Pac-10 team? Here's what I expect: Penn State will go unbeaten; the Big 12 and SEC champs won't, and one of them will be unfairly bumped for the Nittany Lions.

Anyway, for me, it's: (1) Texas, (2) Alabama, (3) Penn State -- then Oklahoma State with a huge jump into the Top 5 (SO impressive to beat Mizzou on the road), followed by Oklahoma, which hardly looked bad in defeat.

And then everyone else (including unbeaten BCS-crashers Utah and BYU -- who play each other eventually -- and Texas Tech, who plays Texas, among others in the Big 12 gauntlet). Among 1-loss teams, it remains a scrum between Georgia, Florida and USC, with LSU now the SEC team needing help.

MLB: Big win -- HUGE -- for the Rays in 11. They HAD to have Game 2. The walk-off ending was, of course, dramatic (though who exactly was up to see it?) All those HR, including one by Evan Longoria -- his 3rd in this postseason.

NFL: Will the Chiefs trade Tony Gonzalez? That's less interesting than the ways we'll see the Wildcat from the Dolphins -- and perhaps other teams? -- today.

NBA: Warriors suspend Monta Ellis for 30 games. Wow. That's like "punch-a-fan-in-the-face" time. Even though most of those will be spent injured, that's a big statement. Considering they just gave him that huge contract, that's going to make things fairly awkward between Ellis and the team, don't you think?

Memo to the NBA: Um, no more outdoor games. Yikes: Ugly. (And I was as big of a fan as this idea as it got. It did NOT come off nearly as well as the NHL's outdoor game.)

NHL enters Election '08 fray: Sarah Palin drops the puck at the Flyers game -- and she wasn't met with universal cheers (as you -- or anyone -- could have guessed would happen). Not sure why she'd do that, except that the hockey mom and sports fan in her couldn't resist. Because the story isn't that she dropped the puck -- it's that she got a mixed reception.

It's not that Carl Edwards choked Kevin Harvick -- it's that it was caught on camera, which is just glorious.

And it sucks to be a Michigan fan this morning. Things will turn around, but this season is going to be painful. As long as Blue fans understand that their team will suck this season, they'll be fine. At least McGuffie looks like the real deal.

-- D.S.