Saturday, November 01, 2008
Update: Texas Tech just picked off (now-former) Heisman Trophy leading candidate Colt McCoy to go up 29-13 halfway through the 3rd. Is everyone else enjoying this ass-kicking as much as I am? How can you not love seeing this? (Unless you're a UT fan.)
Brent just said "Here comes BCS chaos." I'm sorry: What's the chaos, at least right now? Why wouldn't you simply replace Texas with Texas Tech at the top of the rankings -- everything else holds the same. Texas Tech is the new Texas: The new No. 1. The new top contender for one of the BCS spots. The new team to beat. Don't discount they're success because the jersey says "Texas Tech" instead of "Texas."
Because given the way that Texas Tech is shellacking Texas, the Red Raiders are obviously -- not just casually -- the better team, if the result holds up. I mean, they are beating the snot out of this Texas team that everyone seemed to think was the best team, by far, in the country. That would make TT better than Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Missouri, too. Now, TT might not survive the Big 12 gauntlet, but they are proving that at least for this season, they are better than Texas.
Oh, cripes, Brent: Please stop apologizing for Texas getting waxed. "It was the last few weeks... it wore on them!" Oh, please: STFU. They wanted all the credit for taking care of their schedule; they can take the hit for not taking care of their schedule. And Texas Tech is playing wonderfully; this is no fluke.
(Colt McCoy could weather a loss and maintain his spot as Heisman front-runner -- I mean, Tebow lost 4 games last year. But that was contingent on him putting up Heisman-like stats. In this game, he is playing like crap -- with stats to match. Graham Harrell for Heisman front-runner, frankly.)
Update: Hells. Effing. Yes.
Sorry for the lack of updates today, but I've been too immersed watching Florida eviscerate Georgia. If Alabama is No. 2 on the strength of outscoring Georgia in Athens, I think I'll take Florida not just out-scoring Georgia, but shutting UGA's offense down, on a neutral field. Man, was that fun to watch. Total domination from the first minute to the moment early in the 4th that Florida magnanimously took their foot off Georgia's spindly throat.
Meanwhile, so much for Tulsa as a BCS-buster. And so much for Florida State's legitimacy.
And how about the Ending of the Day, from Northwestern, winning at No. 17 Minnesota to ruin the GG's dream season. (The big meme among NU fans is the "what if?" from last week's ridiculous loss at Indiana. If not for that, Northwestern would be 8-1 with a beeline toward the Top 10.)
I need to come down from the Florida win. Got about an hour, then I'm ready to settle in for Texas-Texas Tech.
What I'm Watching...
Noon: Northwestern at Minnesota (ESPN2)
(Tracking: Miami@UVA on GamePlan)
(2:oo: Tulsa@Arkansas, GamePlan -- Tracking)
3:30: Florida-Georgia* (CBS)
(Tracking: Oregon/Cal, FSU/GaTech)
8: Texas at Texas Tech (ABC)
* - My brother-in-law is visiting and will be over to watch the Florida game. He's a "double-down" Florida fan -- grew up in Gainesville AND went to UF -- so my fairweather Florida fandom always feels a little shameful in his presence. (His wife is a Georgia fan, which makes today's game annually awkward for them.)
Anyone go to the Phillies celebration? Must have been fun.
So much for the "new-look Knicks."
Brandon Roy means: Who needs Greg Oden?
Rudy Gay (buzzer-beater last night) is going to have a monster year.
Bosh: 31 and 9? He's headed for 1st-team NBA.
Fantasy Watch: Al Thornton -- 30 and 11 in a Clips loss to Denver.
If the Heat are not good, how bad must the Kings be to lose by 26 to them?
NFL suspends LJ for Week 10: Surprised?
Aaron Rodgers must be doing something right: Extended through '14 with $20M guaranteed.
Tyler Hansbrough's DAD has to weigh in on his injury? Uh-oh.
Jim Mora says he doesn't want Washington job. Did anyone say UW wanted to give it to him?
Friday, October 31, 2008
But there is a second GOTW that could end up being just as important -- the winner could very well end up with the SEC's claim on a spot in the national-title game. The Florida-Georgia winner controls the SEC East -- and I'd pick either over Alabama in the SEC title game. And a 1-loss SEC champ has probably earned the right to be considered for a national-title game.
Unlike Urban Meyer (or what Meyer claims), I think Georgia's "Gator Stomp" in the end zone ends up motivating the hell out of Florida -- meanwhile, how could Georgia be more motivated than they were a year ago? The math doesn't work. At least that's my theory...
(1) Texas over @(7) Texas Tech - GOTW 1
(2) Alabama over Arkansas St
(4) Oklahoma over Nebraska
(5) USC over Washington -- Blowout Watch
(8) Florida over (6) Georgia - GOTW 2
(9) OK St over Iowa St
(10) Utah over New Mexico
(11) Boise St over @New Mexico St
(13) TCU over @UNLV
(14) Missouri over @Baylor
Georgia Tech over (15) Florida St
(17) Minnesota over Northwestern
(18) Tulsa over Arkansas -- Malzahn's Revenge!
(19) LSU over Tulane
(20) BYU over Colorado St
(21) Michigan St over Wisconsin
Cincy over (23) South Florida -- Locked Thursday
Cal over (24) Oregon
West Virginia over @(25) UConn
A Morning Quickie chat vet sent me a note this morning that one of our finest group debates during the era of the Morning Quickie was over what the best Halloween candy is. Please feel free to weigh in on this very pressing sports-news topic in the Comments.
Meanwhile, I think in today's SN column, I appropriately labeled this weekend's top college football showdowns as "playoff-ish" -- the winner not only survives, but gets an inside track on the national title game; the loser is out of it.
(Anytime you're talking about the top 2 teams in the Big 12 South and the top 2 teams in the SEC East, all ranked in the Top 8 in the BCS, you're talking about a game of consequence -- even beyond the "every game/every week is a playoff" mantra about college football, which you know I obviously buy into and propagate.)
Meanwhile, I looked at this week's NFL schedule, and it's a dud. Even the "marquee" games -- Pats-Colts and Giants-Cowboys -- aren't nearly what they looked like they'd be in the offseason.
NBA Last Night: The Rockets are so for real. I'm thrilled I was on the "Rockets over Lakers" bandwagon before the season started. Meanwhile, Chris Paul qualifies for the "after-2-games" MVP award (he was also the "after-one-game" MVP award, a good sign for him).
MLB Hot Stove: Who deserves more money -- Manny or Sabathia? Not that it matters: Both will make bank, even in this economy. (But what about a guy like Ryan Dempster? Outside of Wrigley, doesn't he seem less worthy of a big payout?)
More later, including the weekly CFB and NFL picks. Complete SN column here.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Call it "Project: Tebow." In addition to your compliments, many of you emailed to wonder why it was so short.
The fact is: They wanted 300 words; I gave them something closer to 500. This was, of course, my own fault -- I should have constructed it for 300 words. Believe me: I always appreciate a good edit, and -- if you look at my essays with them listed on the right -- they give them to me.
That said, I wanted to publish the original, longer version in full, for those of you who wanted to read more on it. Mind you, it's not better; it's just longer. Here you go:
"Timothy Tebow Shanoff" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
In the lead-up to the birth of my son last week, baby names were on the brain – and on the table.
Sports fans are willing to do a lot of irrational things – scream helplessly at the TV, play dress-up in player jerseys. But maybe nothing about this irrationality hits closer to home than the pressure produced when we're naming our children.
It is not like my wife and I were actually going to name our kid after Tim Tebow, our favorite athlete. That would be as ludicrous as naming your kid after, say, Brett Favre. (What was Eric Mangini thinking?)
But for every name put on the table, my instant reaction was usually, "Hmm: Yes, but what athlete will my fellow fans think of first?"
Eli? Great name. But, after this past Super Bowl, I think it will be a wee bit overdone in the greater New York area.
Isiah? If the first thing you thought of was "Isiah Thomas," you will understand why I rejected that name in about 2 seconds.
Noah was a strong contender, though ultimately discarded because my Florida fandom would inevitably lead folks to believe I named him after Gator great Joakim Noah.
So what about Tim? We could do worse. It's a nice name. Tebow is a talented player and, from all accounts, saintly as a person. (I mean, it's not like saddling your kid with an ungainly name like "Peyton," as so many Tennessee fans did back in the 90s.)
For perspective, our first kid is named Gabe. Though it was just a coincidence, it is not without a little pride I connect him to Gabe Kapler. (Could my own son be that rare Jewish Major Leaguer? Probably not: But he can share a name with one!)
Nevertheless, last week, with my wife in labor, we settled on "Jonah." And I think part of that name's appeal for me was that my sports-fan baby-name radar couldn't immediately summon an athlete who shared his name.
(We gave him the middle name Ryan – I couldn't help but think approvingly of Ryan Braun. In the selection process, I will confess it wasn't problematic for me that each of my boys shares a name connection with a Jewish Major Leaguer.)
In the end, "Tim Shanoff" or "Tebow Shanoff" are as fantastical as the idea of my son suiting up for the Gators and winning a Heisman himself. I settled for paying homage by wearing a Tebow T-shirt in the delivery room.
Still: During the long nights of Jonah's first week, my sleep-deprived brain couldn't help but hallucinate that "Jonah" is actually an anagram for "J. Noah."
Update: I remain stumped to find any current or notable major-sport athletes named "Jonah." Who am I forgetting? (There is a talented Detroit Tigers farm-system pitcher with promise named Jonah Nickerson. Thanks, Baseball-Reference.com!)
EVERY sport should try having a close-out championship game that lasts a brisk 75 minutes and finishes before 10 pm.
That was the best part of all. What fan -- regardless of what team you root for or what sport you like -- couldn't appreciate that?
In the history of MLB, the NBA and, without any expertise, the NHL, there is a single instance I can think of where we know a moment by its placement in the series:
"Game 6": The 6th game of the 1986 World Series. When you say "Game 6," most fans know what you're referring to. And that's it. Until now.
I would argue that "Game 5.5" joins that incredibly exclusive group. It is befitting the unprecedented nature of the 2008 World Series, likely to be the least-watched World Series in history.
But "Game 5.5" will live on forever. I love the concept so much that I led today's SN column with it.
(God, wasn't the idea of a championship game that lasted less than 90 minutes and finished before 10 p.m. ET the freaking best? Some enterprising sports-league exec is going to make something big from that.)
Huge congrats to the Philly fans out there. The rest of us give you a hard time, but no fan base is more passionate or, for lack of a better word, real. You deserve it. Please enjoy it. After the 25-year title drought since "Fo, Fo, Fo," you should know better than to not appreciate this moment.
Meanwhile, you'll see in the column: I'm not feeling all that bad about the Rays. Look at what the '91 Braves did after going worst-to-first then losing in the World Series -- they made the playoffs about a gajillion seasons in a row. The Rays still have the most enviable roster in the league -- even if Joe Maddon strangely didn't use ace David Price until it was too late. If there was a gaffe, that was it.
On to the NBA and Part 2 of its Opening Night: Wow, the Knicks are different. First of all, that offense. Second, D'Antoni left both Marbury and Curry benched the entire game. Third, David Lee and Wilson Chandler are going to have very big seasons. Oh, and they won.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were even more dominant than they were against the Blazers on Tuesday; Chris Paul started his MVP campaign -- I'd call him the "after-one-game NBA MVP"; Chris Bosh will benefit more from Jermaine O'Neal than Jermaine O'Neal will from Chris Bosh; Rudy Gay is going to have a big season; Jefferson and Love are instantly the most enjoyable young 1-2 frontcourt combos in the league; man, it's going to be a long season for Wizards fans.
Complete SN column here. More later.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
“I’m probably pretty boring to watch a game with because I’m all about expected values. I don’t even care if it goes in or not, I’m all about it, ‘Should it go in?’ I can live with randomness. I mean, if it’s a close game in the end, yeah, I’m just like anyone else. But I just want us to play the odds all the time.
“Sometimes it’s even important to live with randomness because too often we all decide whether a play was a good play or bad play only after we’ve watched whether the ball went into the net. I think that can be misleading. Of course any shot that goes in we’ll take, but over time I want our players to continue to make smart decisions over the long term, and to do that you really have to take out whether the shot goes in or not, and you have to focus more on whether it should go in and whether it’s a good shot for our offense. That’s pretty critical, otherwise you end up chasing what you just saw—which might have been pure luck—versus constantly focusing on the future and what you’re most likely to see.
Damn, the Rockets front office is smart. I'm so crazy to pick Houston to win the NBA title?
...How about its billionaires coming HERE? The Nets would make a fine acquisition for any of your run-of-the-mill Russian oligarchs: New York, new arena, LeBron, cash out the wazoo.
David Stern better thank his stars for the salary cap. Oligarch money would make Mark Cuban look like Donald Sterling. (h/t Ziller)
PS: Basketball Jones is back! In video form! Must-see!
Meanwhile, who had "Game 1" in the Greg Oden Injury Pool? Yeesh.
More later. Complete column here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Founded by Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas, SB Nation is an aggregation of team-specific blogs -- some their market leader, others not.
Meanwhile, congrats to Bleacher Report for snagging a $3.5 million investment in a B-round of financing. (That should help finance those 7,500 contributors cranking out 400 articles a day.)
Aside from being entirely scalable -- though perhaps not without diminishing editorial quality -- BR has some notable distribution deals with mainstream sports sites.
Now, to the both of you, two words: Cash preservation! (Kidding: Just ask Mark Cuban -- this is the time to find your focus and create market share while others hunker down.)
The Celtics and Lakers feel like everyone's pick to play for the NBA title, with most thinking that with a healthy Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will reverse last year's result for its own "Remember the 80s" title. The rivalry is fine, but even 4 months after the Finals, it is lame and predictable.There you have it: Rockets over Magic. I just can't bring myself to pick either the Lakers or the Celtics, let alone both. Maybe that contrarian notion is blinding me to the obvious reality, but I actually think that the Rockets can win the West -- and the Magic can win the East.
I'm not just being contrarian as I pick the Rockets to beat the Magic for the NBA title. (Hey: it's like "Remember the 90s!")
The new "Big 3" is Yao, T-Mac and Ron Artest, who won't win MVP (that will be Chris Paul), but certainly will qualify for consideration by being the piece that earns Houston the title in the West. And I love analytics-driven Rockets GM Daryl Morey -- numbers win championships!
In the East, the aging Celtics can't possibly play with the same sense of mission as a year ago. (SO due for a bad injury, right?) Meanwhile, Orlando has a "Big 2" and a "Big-ish 4": The East's best post player (Howard); its best sidekick (Lewis); its best 6th man (Turkoglu); and, now, its top perimeter defender (Pietrus).
(The only other thing to point out is that this is one of the most interesting and compelling rookie classes in years: There is Greg Oden. There is Mike Beasley, who was an even better college player -- and NBA prospect -- than Kevin Durant. There is No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose. There is Spanish import Rudy Fernandez. There is D-League draftee Mike Taylor. And that doesn't even count players like Eric Gordon or Brook Lopez who could instantly contribute.)
Suggest your own Finals picks, award winners, players to watch and storylines to follow for the season through the Comments.
I think my problem, outlined in the lead of today's SN column, is that Bud Selig -- once again -- simply ignores or defies the rulebook at a whim.
Why didn't the rulebook have a "World Series exemption" already in it? With the weather forecast clear to all, why didn't Selig lay this out beforehand?
Consider: Both teams were playing as if the game would be over after officially registering after 5 innings. Fans certainly didn't know. Why did they play the game past 5 innings at all? (They could have easily called the sopping game before 5 innings, necessitating a full do-over. I guess a shortened "continuation" is more dramatic -- and interesting -- than a full do-over.)
Once again, Bud Selig turns something ordinary into a clusterf---. Now, that said, the situation instantly makes this World Series memorable, historically novel. There's something to be said for that.
Meanwhile, the Titans are 7-0, and I'm kind of rooting for this anonymous, unassuming bunch to break the '72 Dolphins record. Wouldn't that be amazing? Does great D, limited turnovers and a punishing 1-2 running game eventually leave you vulnerable -- or is it actually the most sustainable of any of the ways you can win? (Consider the Titans didn't even hit 100 yards rushing, yet still controlled the game.)
NBA Preview: You can find it in the column, but I'll re-print it later today, so you can go crazy in the Comments with your own NBA predictions. I ended up affirming my allergy to the ubiquitous Lakers-over-Celtics -- I'm taking the Rockets over the Magic.
(What does it say that of tonight's 3 openers, including both the Lakers and the Celtics, I am most intrigued to watch Greg Oden? His battle with Andrew Bynum is the first of many classics, as many have already forecast. Well, at least until Bynum breaks for the East.)
(I had my office fantasy NBA league draft last night and lucked into the 1st overall pick in a 12-team league. I took Chris Paul.)
Ty Willingham is out at Washington: Lane Kiffin is such an obvious replacement, UW should hire him RIGHT NOW -- let's call him "interim recruiting coordinator" -- and let him focus on recruiting, which is the only thing holding Washington back from returning to its glory days.
Meanwhile, is Phil Fulmer done after this season at Tennessee? He should be, certainly. And if he is, the Vols could go after Steve Spurrier, but why not go for the safer and less drama-queen pick in former Vols assistant David Cutcliffe, who in less than a year has turned Duke into a not-terrible team, perhaps the greatest one-season turnaround job in recent CFB history.
Complete column here. More later.
Monday, October 27, 2008
As you'd expect from nothing less than a talent like Drew Magary, who established himself at least 2 years ago as the laugh-out-loud funniest sports voice in America, online or off. Senselessly, I have been sitting on my book review for weeks. It's coming later this week, hopefully. Needless to say, Men With Balls is a must-buy and a must-read. Congrats, Drew.
PS: It's a glorious moment for leading sports bloggers finally coming out with books: College Basketball Prospectus, by Ken "KenPom" Pomeroy and John (ne "Big Ten Wonk") Gasaway, and Free Darko's NBA uber-book both release imminently.)
But can I first tip my cap to not one but two YouTube moments that are likely to have traction today?
(1) Mike Singletary, because nothing says "coaching debut" like a press conference freak-out.
(2) Patti LaBelle, for one of the worst National Anthems I can remember.
Meanwhile, I'm willing to admit that I was very very wrong about the Phillies' chances against the Rays; I totally discounted their HR power, obviously on display last night. That doesn't mean I'm not still pulling for the Rays or disappointed if Tampa falls short. But, again, it's hard to begrudge Philly sports fans this moment. If it's going to happen, I hope it happens tonight in Philly, rather than in Game 6 or 7 in Florida.
Penn State vs. the BCS: As expected, yesterday's anti-PSU rant triggered a lot of comments. Good comments, actually. And I appreciate you meeting my irrational rantings with (mostly) clear-eyed rebuttals and analysis. Really, my problems can be boiled down to two things:
(1) The notion that poll voters may use some sort of nostalgia for Joe Paterno's age or career to put them in a title game they aren't worthy of being in. If the name on the jersey was, say, "Texas Tech," and the coach was, say, Mike Leach, you wouldn't be seeing this.
(2) Penn State's schedule is not particularly challenging. Even their signature game wasn't that impressive -- sure, beating Ohio State in Columbus is something that Penn State hasn't done since before JoePa was in AARP, but (a) the PSU D shut down -- what? -- a true freshman QB, and (b) the vaunted PSU offense couldn't muster much against the same OSU defense that porously allowed USC to score at will. (Please don't say Oregon State, using the Beavers' win over USC as evidence -- the Pac-10 is terrible this year.)
If "going unbeaten from a BCS conference" is all that it takes to make the national-title game -- without even a hint of judgment from voters -- Texas or Alabama or Georgia or Florida or Oklahoma might as well bolt their leagues and join the ACC for football.
Anyway, as you can see, it's going to be a long 6 weeks. Maybe Penn State will do us all a favor and lose at Iowa next week.
(By the way, I'm not anti-Penn State, per se. I would love to see them win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl. It HAS been a wonderful year for JoePa. It has been great to see them open up the offense. I just don't think they are as BCS title-game worthy as the Big 12 or SEC champs.)
UPDATE: Per your comments in the BlogPoll ballot post below, I have moved Penn State ahead of Texas Tech to No. 3. See? I'm not THAT much of a hater! (And not THAT unwilling to listen.) Mostly, I appreciate the discussion in the Comments of that post.
Wow, just getting to the NFL here? Huge day for Brian Westbrook. Huge day for Joe Flacco. Huge day for Ted Ginn. Huge day for the Giants. Huge day for quality long-snappers who might be out of work right now but looking to hook on with a playoff team. Huge day for the Titans. Are we already at the NFL midseason? Or does next week count as midseason?
Any more ideas for non-conventional (ie, not Lakers and not Celtics) picks for the NBA season?
BTW, love that new Guitar Hero ad with Kobe, Phelps, A-Rod and Tony Hawk. Brilliant.
Complete SN column here. More later.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Now, how do you feel about Penn State this morning?
If you are a "half-full" person (or Kirk Herbstreit), you give them all the credit in the world for winning in Columbus and stifling the Buckeyes offense.
If you are "half-empty," you are completely unimpressed with the Penn State "HD" offense -- sure, the OSU D is good, but USC didn't seem to have much trouble with it. And as for Penn State's dominating D, perhaps we had overrated Ohio State's "Pryor Offense."
I'm leaning toward half-empty. I think it's time to start the campaign: An unbeaten Penn State won't necessarily be better than a 1-loss Big 12 and a 1-loss SEC champ.
If a Coach or Harris pollster is voting Penn State into the BCS national-title game mainly out of nostalgia for the career of Joe Paterno, it is the
They're either one of the 2 best teams in the country (which I find dubious) or not. Take your feelings for JoePa out of it.
I love the Penn State resurgence story this season. But you shouldn't necessarily put them in the national title game for it. Meanwhile, give them the "Ohio State" award for going unbeaten through a less-than-daunting Big Ten schedule. (This year's Ohio State at least played USC. And lost. But they played 'em.)
Penn State's schedule is fractionally as difficult as the best of the Big 12 or SEC. Look at Texas: The Longhorns will play a harder schedule in any 2 of the past 3 weeks (pick any 2!) -- let alone next week at Texas Tech -- than Penn State's entire season combined.
I'm impressed with Penn State going into a hostile Columbus and coming out with a win, to be sure. But it wasn't entirely impressive.
It won't surprise you, then, what my preliminary BlogPoll Top 10 looks like:
3. Texas Tech
4. Penn State
5. Oklahoma State
I am sure I will flip-flop Penn State and Texas Tech, but I think that winning in Lawrence was almost as impressive as winning in Columbus. (For the doubters about TX Tech's defense, Kansas' offense is much better than Ohio State's.)
Here's the thing: I can leave Texas Tech there this week, because as of next Saturday night, when they host Texas, either they lose and drop out of the Top 10 or win and climb to No. 1. Regardless, Penn State moves back up to No. 3 anyway -- assuming they "survive" yet another "toughie" Big Ten game (at Iowa).
Every other BCS contender has to run through a gauntlet of brutal games. All Penn State had to do was beat an overrated, offensively anemic Ohio State in Columbus -- and they barely did that. Yup: That sure is BCS title-game worthy.
Still more than a month to go in the season, and it's already getting political. Hey, with this system, that's how it should be.