Thursday, December 31, 2009
No wife (not even a girlfriend), let alone kids. Sketchy, cliff-of-dotcom-bubble job. No writing career. Hadn't applied to business school. Horrible, illegal sub-let apartment. Tiny network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. Atrophied-to-nonexistence fan allegiance.
Fast-forward 10 years: Lovely wife I've been with for 8 wonderful years. Two amazing kids. Fascinating work and energizing career path. Wide-ranging writing career, from being on the front page of ESPN.com every day to an obsessive blog about Tim Tebow. Harvard MBA. Homeowner. Huge network. Die-hard fan allegiance.
But as I have mentioned here -- and try to mention as often as I can -- one of the true highlights has been my relationship with you and the rest of the readers. Whether you have been reading since the Quickie or since the blog launched or when I have written for any number of other outlets, I appreciate it more than you know.
I wish each of you -- all of you -- the best in the new year and new decade: Health and happiness.
See you all back here tomorrow. Let's make 2010 the best. year. ever.
I want to lay off the Tiger. (Fat lip! Must...resist...urge...)
I want to watch more bowl games. (Missed last night's Idaho thriller.)
I want to stop worrying about NFL teams tanking -- but want them to call it tanking.
I want to not talk about where LeBron is going this summer. Or where Joe Mauer is going next winter.
I want Fox and Time Warner to resolve their issue before tomorrow night's Sugar Bowl, so I can freaking watch Tim Tebow's final college game from my couch, rather than a bar.
TimTeblog.com might be the most interesting thing I've done this year, professionally -- but I resolve to try something new next year professionally that is both interesting AND generates revenue.
And, as always, I resolve to be a better spouse and dad -- however that might be defined. If I get that right, everything else falls into place.
Check out the complete column here. More later.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
If you aren't tired of my relationship with my wife yet, here is yet another "most meaningful moment of my decade" essay, this time three weeks after the first date in question, the one in which I was instantly converted to Florida fandom. Three weeks later defined the relationship, well beyond sports.
So this essay is not about sports, but it's a little more exciting than "Ooh! Florida! I'll have what she's having!"
Huge thanks to the brilliant folks at The Awl for inviting me to participate in their end-of-the-decade retrospective, which I highly recommend. My contribution pales in comparison to the others. It's really an honor to be a part of it.
Let's start with the biggie: Tiger will win two majors, and by the US Open, the "redemption" meme will be full throttle (it's what sports media has wanted to embrace all along, and it's why Tiger's hibernation was ill-advised).
But why stop there?
*LeBron will join Dwyane Wade in Miami. (Oh, and he won't win the NBA title in 2009.) Chris Bosh will go to the Knicks.
*Neither the Colts nor the Saints will make the Super Bowl.
*Brett Favre will be playing in the NFL in September 2010.
*Tim Tebow will be drafted in the top half of the 1st round of the NFL Draft -- NOT by the Jags.
*John Wall will be college hoops Player of the Year, but Kentucky will lose to Kansas in the title game.
*The Yankees will beat the Phillies in the World Series (again). Roy Halladay wins NL Cy.
*Boise State will beat Ohio State for the college football national title.*
* - I think I like this last one the most (as a sidebar, 1-loss Florida -- its only loss coming at Alabama -- will beat then-unbeaten Alabama in the SEC title game, but despite intense lobbying, won't be able to get past unbeaten Boise and unbeaten Ohio State in the BCS rankings. Florida will play Alabama in a rubber-match Sugar Bowl that will get higher ratings than the national-title game.) Oh, and Boise QB Kellen Moore will win the Heisman, with OSU QB Terrelle Pryor coming in 2nd. (That might flip-flop... too many Heisman voters love their unbeaten Ohio State QBs... see Troy Smith.)
I'd love to hear your predictions for 2010 in the Comments. I will be writing tomorrow, on New Year's Day and all weekend, if you want to drop by.
Complete SN column here. More later.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I'm still figuring out just how that's going to work on TimTeblog.com, but with four days to go I'm leaving it all on the field, so to speak. "Finish Strong," as a certain evangelical QB might say.
Following a relatively slow week last week (until the insane weekend!), I published five new pieces yesterday and a whopping NINE today. I'd love for you to check them out.
The signature is a series I'm rolling out all week, analyzing the Top 10 moments of the Tebow Era at Florida. I'm halfway through -- and No. 5 might be my favorite (coming at 5 p.m.)
Declarations of fealty! Circumcisions! Open weeping! More declarations of fealty! Superlatives! That might sound like me about Tebow over the past year, but yes: All Tebow.
Couple other fun posts, too: There's a bunch of interesting stuff coming from New Orleans (Tebow's favorite Tebowism!) -- the Times-Picayune actually put together what might be, gloriously, the biggest Tebow fluffing in the history of sports media -- two dozen reporters, columnists and college football luminaries, all talking about how much they love Tebow. Naturally, I am last on the list -- but I'm the only one to bring up the circumcisions! (Or TMZ! Or Google! Come on!)
And, I'll tell you what: I am shocked that none of the Florida beat writers have picked up on one post about Tebow's involvement in a potentially controversial Super Bowl ad. (I actually don't think the ad will happen, and I think Team Tebow will walk back -- quickly -- from this before it becomes a "thing.")
Lastly, revel in the schadenfreude that my cable company (Time Warner) might be dropping Fox in a contract dispute at midnight on December 31... just in time for me to NOT be able to watch the Sugar Bowl. (No, seriously: I am very much in severe agitation about this.)
So I invite you to head over to TimTeblog.com and just start at the top, working backward. The phenomenon -- at least the college iteration -- is almost over.
In part, it was a rundown of the best/most intriguing/etc athletes of the decade, which is not all that hard to name: Tiger, Phelps, Lance, Federer, LeBron, Bonds, Brady, Bolt, Tebow, Danica.
Then, I tried to make the point that novelty is sometimes enough (Danica) and off-field mythology certainly helps (Tebow), but championship (or all-time) performances trump all.
That's what we remember athletes for. Gilbert Arenas -- my favorite NBA player of the decade (although one I didn't know I would love way back in 1999) -- was a nice quirky little story. But he wasn't transcendent. It's comforting to know that performance still matters most.
In the next decade, what will we remember? It's obviously hard to say -- who, in 1999, saw Phelps' 8 golds coming? Or Lance's 6 Tour titles? Or Federer? Or LeBron? Or Brady? Or even Bonds? (Let alone things like the Rays winning the AL in 2008 or Florida winning back-to-back basketball national titles in 2006-07.)
We can make a reasonable guess that A-Rod will break the all-time record for career home runs -- that will be the most significant milestone of the decade (short of a player breaking DiMaggio's 56).
We can make a reasonable guess that LeBron will win a title -- maybe more. (Although I still contend that the emergence of Dwight Howard could make that much harder than folks think.)
We can make a reasonable guess that Tiger will break Nicklaus's all-time record for major golf titles. That will be a big deal, too.
But no one will break Phelps' 8-gold record. No one will win 5 Tours in a decade like Lance just did. It's hard to fathom anyone but Bolt breaking Bolt's records in sprinting.
But if someone does, you can guarantee that their name will show up at the end-of-decade lists in 2019. Because winning performances are what people remember most.
More in today's column:
*I agree: The Colts essentially tanked the game against the Jets, just as they'll tank this coming weekend. What I can't stand is any talk from Tony Dungy that Jim Caldwell is being intellectually honest about being "competitive" but Bill Belichick wasn't being equally honest when he played the percentages against the Colts a month ago.
*I'm excited for the Week 17 "play-in" games, but let's be honest: The AFC Wild Card teams aren't going to win the conference title. So let's not get TOO excited.
*Mike Leach: Yikes.
*Steve Addazio is a great guy and a terrific motivator -- and, frankly, one hell of an offensive line coach. I'm also sure he'll be a perfectly fine interim head coach at Florida. Where I would become a little more nervous is if he was still the head coach next fall. (Oh, he'll make a fine head coach somewhere in 2011, and this experience will help his resume tremendously. I just would rather not have Addazio as the full-time Florida head coach for a regular season.)
*Northwestern is ranked in basketball for the first time in 40 years. That is all.
Complete column here. More later.
Monday, December 28, 2009
My 10 Biggest (Personal) Sports-Related Moments of The Decade:
*The night I met my wife and converted to Florida fandom.
You have all seen how much this made an impact on my life.
*The first morning the Daily Quickie ran on ESPN.com.
Launched mainstream media's first-ever daily national sports column.
*The afternoon I launched my TV "career" on Around the Horn.
Career record: 0-4. Not bad for someone with no prior TV experience.
*The last day of the Quickie -- and first day of DanShanoff.com.
Couldn't comprehend how amazing the blog would be.
*Making the decision to obsessively cover Tim Tebow.
600-plus posts. Was it worth the time and energy?
*Being published on Page 2 for the first time.
Simmons. Wiley. Thompson. Halberstam. Shanoff?
*Being invited to join The Sporting Blog.
Hall. Shoals. Tunison. Levy. Shanoff?
*Getting my first byline in the New York Times.
Actually, seeing my son's picture was more thrilling than the byline.
*Muffing the opportunity to work on Deadspin with Will Leitch.
He and the site were infinitely better for not having me around.
*Florida's national titles in football (06, 08) and hoops (06, 07).
Remember those losses in '06 and '08 nearly as much as the title-game wins.
Also receiving votes: Finishing my first screenplay (a sports movie); finishing (at least) two book proposals (both about sports); my first time walking into The Swamp; my first post on Deadspin; watching "Northwestern 54, Michigan 51"; recieving an encouraging email from Ralph Wiley, which I keep in my wallet to this day; my unborn first child finishing in the Top 10 out of 10,000 entries in the Daily Quickie Readers Bracket Challenge in 2006.
Coming throughout the rest of the week: More decade-in-review stuff.
In the comments: What was YOUR personal best sports moment of the decade?
The essential point about Meyer has been honed to No. 3 below: It's not WILL Meyer change his style, but CAN he change?
Ironically, he'll have to apply his trademark intensity to the challenge of becoming LESS intense. Will he be comfortable if "Less Intense Urban" can win "only" 11 games a year? What if his intensity is precisely the reason Florida was able to win the national titles?
Read this interesting take by Meyer mentor Earl Bruce. First, a fairly stunning revelation: Did Meyer's health issues materially contribute to the Gators' problems in the SEC title game?
But there was a bigger point buried in there that I want to tease out: For all of Meyer's talents and experience, he seemed unprepared for or uncertain about the role of season-long front-runner. He is much better managing a team as an insurgent through adversity (rallying from a presumptive season-killing loss, going up against a seemingly superior title-game opponent) than coaching from the front.
Consider the way he coached Bowling Green and Utah, even Florida in the first few years. He was -- perhaps is -- a turnaround specialist, a program-maker. Even in 2008, it was a "turnaround" job from the growing pains of the 2007 season.
2009 was an entirely new thing: Defending champs, presumptive favorites to run the table and win again. This was completely new to Meyer, and his expertise didn't necessarily fit with the job. At the very least, he had no experience with it. Perhaps that's why he seemed so unhappy throughout the season; perhaps that's why he burnt out by the end of the season.
As I have said since the summer, "championship or failure" -- the expectations for this season for Florida -- are as rough as any coach or fan can create, arguably the toughest expectations any sports team has faced this decade.
That is an argument for why Meyer's job in 2010 is easier -- far easier -- than 2009 and why he will ultimately thrive again: There are few expectations. He can go back to re-building mode, a personal and professional mindset he is much more comfortable with. If he is to change his fundamental systemic self, he will have a better shot at transforming himself under conditions that feel "normal" to him, that he has experience with before and behaviors he can benchmark against.
There's a lot of talk about college football coaches as "CEOs." This is true, although then we have to get into discussion of CEO management style.
Compare Meyer's approach -- obsessive micromanagement -- to that of, say, Mack Brown, the supreme delegator. Meyer coaches Florida like a CEO manages a start-up; Brown coaches Texas like a CEO manages a Fortune 50 company.
Any good MBA will tell you that the start-up or turnaround CEO mentality can only get you so far before you need to radically change your approach -- or, in the case of a start-up, import the steadier hand of the professional manager (and, in the case of a turnaround job, slide the turnaround CEO in favor of a steady-state CEO.) Even the Google guys had to bring in Eric Schmidt.
I'm obviously not suggesting that Florida get rid of Meyer like a company changes CEOs, but I am suggesting that the changes that Meyer has to make are the equivalent of a start-up CEO changing themselves into a big-company CEO. It's not impossible: Look at Jeff Bezos at Amazon Steve Jobs at Apple. But I guarantee you those managers had to change their behaviors and impulses as their companies changed from start-ups or insurgents to mainstream corporate powerhouses.
As part of Meyer's therapy, I would love to see him talk with experienced CEOs about the business of transforming themselves as leaders from micro-managing task-masters into big-picture delegators, those who were able to do it without sacrificing results.
The analogues don't just come from college football -- Mack Brown or, as Meyer himself alluded to, Steve Spurrier (who definitely seems to enjoy work-life balance). He needs to reach across all sorts of sports and industries to find models that might work for him.
PS: Lots of interesting and important takes this morning from Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel and Pat Dooley and others. Here's what I'm struck by: Setting aside the physical symptoms, if you squint at the analysis today, aren't we all dancing around the idea that Urban Meyer had what used to be called a "nervous breakdown?"
Sunday, December 27, 2009
(1) Meyer will coach the Gators for the 2010 season. When asked the question, he said he felt he would "in his gut." That wasn't just a dog-whistle for recruits; it was foreshadowing. The open question is whether he's back for spring practice or just for the start of practice this August.
(2) Meyer has health problems that are much more serious than any of us know about. Mainly, because he won't discuss them. But his unwillingness to discuss them indicates they are significant. Let's file those away, because you never know when they will come back as an issue.
(3) Meyer has to "get right" as it relates to his intensity. A telling detail came at the end, when he said he would get in touch with Steve Spurrier, a guy not known for his 12-month-a-year, 24/7 coaching regimen. Meyer needs to find work-life balance, and he needs to learn to delegate.
Meanwhile, Meyer would not approve of the attention we have given this story in the last 24 hours at the expense of our families. I'll unpack each of those three takeaways this week.
This isn't without precedent -- actually, it's not without precedent in Gainesville (see Billy Donovan 3 years ago). It speaks to how gut-wrenching (and gut-reacting) this decision was for Meyer. (There's also precedent when Coach K took a leave from Duke in '94-95... if you remember, Duke was atrocious that year without him.)
The big question -- particularly for the 4:30 press conference: Now what? How long of an "absence" are we talking about? What does that mean for recruiting?
And what about all of those health issues that made coaching difficult... even dangerous? Were they overstated... yesterday night?
Again, this all speaks to how the combination of stress, losing, health issues, family and everything else probably made Urban make a hasty decision (to not leave Florida recruiting in the lurch)... one that he ultimately regretted, apparently.
I'd rather have Meyer back -- even under these odd conditions -- than quitting, but...wow.
UPDATE: So Chris from Smart Football has been tweeting some interesting notions about how Meyer:
*Disheartening that Meyer might merely take a leave of absence during offseason. Point is he's so stressed during the yr could die.
*24 hours later and Meyer ready forgetting that there's more to life than winning/losing fb games. And Meyer's whole thing is his intensity..
*What's the point of a more laid back Urban Meyer? Hobson's choice for him: change the only style he knows or face death? Don't understand
Here was my response to Chris: "Fascinating to wonder if a successful coach can fundamentally change his style and still win. plenty of less stressed coaches who still win."
The point is that I think Meyer was WAY more intense -- even than he is now -- 10 years ago as an assistant or first-time head coach. And he has mellowed since then. I think he can mellow further still without ruining what makes him successful. Yes, part of it is the intensity, but part of it is his meticulousness, his understanding of organizations and psychology, etc. I hope he can mellow out -- it feels like the only way this can work without him working himself to death.
Urban Meyer is walking away from Florida because the job -- and his intensity for it -- was ruining his health and putting his family at risk of not having a dad, in reality and not just in practice. (Meyer says as much in Pete Thamel's must-read interview with Meyer.)
I will say that this puts the Meyer health scare following the SEC title game in new perspective... maybe we should have seen it coming. At the time, the school passed it off as "dehydration" and clamped down on any news about it. In retrospect, this was the crucial part of the chain of events that led to the resignation. (The SI profile of Meyer was either totally prescient or totally missed it.)
If the price of Meyer's level of unmatched success is debilitating health issues -- and you have a family you care about more than your job, as good as that job might be -- it's not worth it. And I say that as a fan who has enjoyed and appreciated Meyer's effort as much as anyone. (For a brilliant analysis of the news, you've got to read the take at EDSBS.)
I'm not sure how much more Meyer will say at his press conference today than he said to Thamel, which felt like Meyer's dress rehearsal for today's media mob scene. In addition to details about his health and his motivations, I think he will be asked about his future role with the team, his coaching future (back in 2011? ever?) and his thoughts on a successor.
My thoughts about a successor remain consistent with last night: Presuming that Meyer has a say in the selection and will remain with the program in some capacity, at least for a season or two, I think that Dan Mullen fits the profile of the next coach: Meyer protege operationally, some head-coaching experience, loyalty to Meyer at an emotional level.
(This is where Stoops fails the test: He's not a Meyer guy, systemically or constitutionally. And he has no loyalty to Meyer; it would be uncomfortable for Meyer to sit down the hall, as opposed to Mullen. Utah's Kyle Whittingham actually fits that Mullen profile, too.)
And my opinion hasn't changed from last night that this search needs to end today - and by "today" I don't mean "soon." I mean, literally, today. Recruiting -- the lifeblood of any program -- is entirely effected by this; the next coach needs to have feet on the ground with recruits (the existing class of commitments) tomorrow, hovering over them until Signing Day.
Recruiting is the reason that I think this process has moved fast and the decision was only made in the last 24-48 hours. Meyer wouldn't want to screw Florida over with recruiting. I think he made his decision on Christmas Day, then told Foley yesterday, then they immediately decided to announce it, so they could get a coach in place ASAP and put a tourniquet on recruiting immediately. Meyer himself focused on calling recruits last night.
In the end, this is one of those rare cases where the thing is what it is, on its face: Meyer's health scared the hell out of him, and he wanted to be there for his family. I cannot imagine how bad it must have been to take the best coach in college football with the best job in college football and force him to walk away from it.
Are there remaining questions? Of course. But they don't really have to do with Meyer's motivations. We know that much, at least.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Given that Urban Meyer is going to have a say in the coaching search to name his successor and he is going to have a role in the program, he is going to want a guy he trusts and who understands his system -- but someone who will never challenge Meyer (nor make Meyer feel marginalized). He will also want a guy with previous head-coaching experience, preferably at a high level.
That's Dan Mullen.
(1) Here's to his health, if nothing else.
(2) Can he have a key role in the program?
(3) Who is the next Florida head coach?
(4) This is really really really shocking.
(1) This is unprecedented, certainly in college football -- the nation's best coach, walking away from a dynastic program and a huge contract. Not for another job. But for no job.
I'll take it at face value that it's a "non-life-threatening heart muscle defect" (probably combined with things like the cyst in his brain and his overall stress levels) -- and more power to Meyer for making this decision.
None of us can imagine how difficult it must have been -- how he was feeling to cause him to make the decision...or the tough process to have actually made the decision.
His focus is on his family -- his priority is his family. How can you not respect him making his decisions -- his biggest decisions -- with that as the guiding principle?
I wish Meyer nothing but a long healthy life in good health. I respect him now more than ever.
(2) I really do hope that he stays with Florida in some capacity. (I know they can't name him head of "football operations," like Parcells in Miami -- or could they? -- but maybe something like Schembechler had in Michigan when Carr was coach, where Bo was more than an empty figurehead but not head coach. I don't know enough about that set-up to say.)
That doesn't mean that the Florida football program is... well, I don't even have the word for it.
(3) The main thing is for AD Jeremy Foley to get a new coach in place as quickly as possible. I don't think having that done by the end of the weekend (yes, tomorrow) is unrealistic. It's the best college football coaching job in America, with a cupboard as stocked as any program anywhere. Oh, and recruits are going to be freaked -- very freaked.
(That's why I think that if Foley makes his first call to Bob Stoops, Stoops HAS to say yes. Florida is a better job than Oklahoma. UPDATE: I'm not saying Stoops is my favorite choice, or even the right choice. There's a big contingent of Florida football intelligentsia who don't want Stoops.)
But what if Foley doesn't want Stoops? Or if Stoops says no? Who's next on the list?
*Charlie Strong, the longtime coordinator with no head-coaching experience?
*Kyle Whittingham, who stepped in to replace Urban Meyer at Utah.
*Meyer's protege Dan Mullen, with a solid rookie year under him at Mississippi State?
(NOT Mike Shanahan: No experience coaching college football -- certainly not the current uber-competitive version, which is a 12 months a year, 24/7 job, not some "cushy" NFL gig.)
I guess it depends, in part, on how much influence Meyer has on the choice. (It sounds like he will be part of the search committee -- which is actually kind of comforting.) The way things unfold over the next 24-48 hours will be fascinating and, for Florida fans, kind of insane.
(4) Needless to say, this is the most shocking news involving a coach in the history of college football. This isn't Knute Rockne tragically dying in a plane crash; this is the best coach in the game (the AP college football coach of the decade) having to walk away -- with 20 years left in his career.
"I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program. I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family. After consulting with my family, [university president] Dr. [Bernie] Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.
"I’m proud to be a part of the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation and I plan to remain in Gainesville and involved with the University of Florida. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity I’ve had to be a part of a tremendous institution – from Dr. Machen to Jeremy Foley and the entire administrative staff at UF. I’m also very thankful for the chance to work with some of the best assistants in college football and coach some of the best college football players and watch them grow both on and off the field as people. I will cherish the relationships with them the most."
Most of you probably agree with me that L.A. sports fans -- particularly Lakers fans -- are insufferable, right up there with Boston fans or New York fans. (Not quite, but up there.)
And yet it actually made me respect them more that they would take those Nike giveaways and chuck them onto the floor to protest -- in no particular order -- their team getting blown out, their team getting blown out by LeBron, their team getting blown out by Shaq, their team getting blown out in the marquee Christmas Day game, the officiating.
Was it a temper-tantrum? A minor revolt against holiday commercialism? A laughably short fuse for a meaningless regular-season game? Probably a little bit of all three.
I raise a day-after-Christmas toast to you, Lakers fans: For making me not just like you, but applaud you, for your display of petulance on Christmas Day that was amusing enough and high-profile enough to rival Philly fans booing Santa Claus lo those many years ago.
I can only hope for a similar display of protest from dejected USC fans in San Francisco tonight.
Hope everyone got everything they wanted yesterday.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I feel a bond with Oral Roberts from one of the more memorable moments of my decade (at least writing about sports): The campaign I had in the Quickie in March 2006 where I was CONVINCED that Oral Roberts would beat Memphis to become the first 16-seed ever to beat a 1-seed in the men's NCAA Tournament.
Given the traditional lack of any drama in the 1/16 game, my prediction was arguably the most interesting thing about the game itself.
Of course, I was wrong. Not as notably wrong as when I said on the front page of ESPN.com "Two words: It's. Over." when the Yankees went up 3-0 on the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS.
(That was my worst prediction of the decade -- a Quickie jinx to end all Quickie jinxes -- and, even though I'd like to think that the Quickie was memorable for its day-to-day consistency, with nothing really standing out because it was all pretty good, that was a memorable day for me.)
I can't imagine not piling on the nostalgia next week -- there's a lot to cover. Yesterday, I was having a conversation and the "What were you doing in December 1999" thing came up. I'll dig into that more next week, but -- wow -- it's kind of insane how much things have changed, both personally and professionally. I'm sure that's the case for all of you -- look: 10 years is a long time. It's a pretty good debate whether you go through more changes in the decade between age 16-26 or between age 26-36. Actually, that's a pretty good column idea for next week.
As for today? There may not be a slower day of the year, in sports or otherwise. People are off work, or if they are at work, not really working -- certainly taking off early. Traveling. Last-minute holiday gift-buying. For Jewish folks, picking out the Chinese restaurant and movie.
A handful of storylines:
*Utah gives the MWC more bowl cred.
*Favre-Childress: This will haunt the Vikes in the playoffs.
*No. 1 UConn beats back No. 2 Stanford in women's hoops.
*Wade: 29 in Heat cruise past Utah.
In 2010, I actually hope to see Wade and LeBron pair up on the same team.
(What did I tell you? Sssssloooowwww.)
I'll be back tomorrow morning. For those not checking back and celebrating the holiday, Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
God, I was so young and had so much creative energy back then.
In 2006, I published the poem on Deadspin -- had a lot of fun with that one.
I'm not going to have one this year, but it's fun to look back at the old versions. (It's not a bad way to survey the big stories of the decade.)
This year, at least in today's SN column -- the last one before Christmas -- I am more concerned with the "nice" topics that are offsetting the "naughty" storyline that has dominated the last month.
I love the NBA on Xmas. I love that Suh was the first defensive player ever to win the AP's college football player of the year award. I love that Tyreke Evans is already an NBA stud. I love that Little Caesars isn't just a bowl sponsor, but they named the bowl after themselves. I love that USC could not care less about the Emerald Bowl. I love that the Broncos are imploding just in time to give fans of the six 7-7 teams in the AFC a little extra hope. I love that Northwestern basketball is in the process of its best season ever. (More on that later.)
It's easy to get cynical, when you are bombarded with stories like Tiger. But as I tried to point out yesterday in that post about TMZSports (and I'm not shocked at the superficial knee-jerk conclusions that it will be a "game-changer," but disappointed they didn't read my argument why it isn't), it's not that fans mind the "naughty" stories -- they just want them to be about the games, themselves. That's why the Redskins "Worst. Trick Play. Ever." story was so good. Or why schadenfreude in sports is so awesome -- it's almost always sports-related.
There are a lot of things to think or feel about Tiger, but I'm not sure anyone has argued that schadenfreude is one of them.
Mostly, we want to focus on the NBA on Christmas... or bowl games (no matter who's playing in them or what the bowl name is)... or turning our attention to college hoops (and what could be the best Cinderella storyline since George Mason)... or just lamenting that our fantasy football season is over, but recognizing that it means that there's more energy and attention to spend on family and friends.
Here's today's column in full, but mostly for all of you celebrating the holiday on Friday, I wish you and your family the very merriest Christmas.
For the rest of us: It's the traditional "Chinese food and a movie," plus as much "A Christmas Story" as possible.
I'll be posting lightly here the rest of the week and weekend, if you want to drop by.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Now, the bigger question: Is it a big deal? (Or, in TMZ terms, is there any fire behind the smoke?)
The answer is: It's interesting, but not nearly as big of a deal as the morning's breathless tweeting makes it out to be.
First, some context: It's not like "reporting what ESPN can't or won't" is a new strategy. It was a core foundation of Deadspin's success. What has changed since Deadspin launched is the number of outlets willing to run Deadspin-broken stories. It changed the competitive landscape. The old standard was: "Does this meet our standards" (whatever those standards might be -- journalistic... or more pragmatically business-oriented).
The new standard is "Are fans talking about it?" If that's the case, then you have to cover it, or you're not serving fans as comprehensively as they want to be served. Someone else will cover it. Someone else will get that audience. And while your core underlying popularity will not erode, you aren't helping yourself when it comes to mitigating the fragmentation of the consumer audience. (But I'm not naive: No number of page views is worth alienating Tiger if Tiger is core to your business. See the remarkable silence from the, um, journalists at Golf Digest.)
Next: Let's be very very clear. The Tiger Woods scandal is not a template for a business. It is the sports industry's "black swan" event -- there has never been anything like it, and -- given its unique conditions -- nothing like it will ever happen again. It was a traffic cash cow for TMZ. It was a traffic cash cow for lots of places. Again: It is neither a template for nor a harbinger of future coverage, let alone should be the basis for a full-time news site.
And if you don't have a new Tiger Woods-level scandal every week or every month, what kind of coverage are you offering?
TMZ.com already dabbles in sports -- most of their coverage seems to revolve around one or the other of the Kardashians, and their significant others, Reggie Bush and Lamar Odom. That is a tough nexus: For most sports fans, that level of celebrity is uninteresting. And for the non-sports fan (who drove the volume of Tiger coverage), Khloe Kardashian might be mildly interesting, but Lamar Odom is most definitely uninteresting.
So who is the target market? Avid fans don't really care about celebrity scandal; casual (or non-) fans don't really care about the athletes whose names would be involved. So where's the natural market? Sports-media sites and bloggers who are going to turn around with your "exclusive" and go trolling for a quick hit of page views?
I suppose there's always some interest in athletes dating (or simply schtupping) celebrities. But not THAT much interest. And certainly not among sports fans. (For more on this, check out Leitch's post at NY Mag about how the Tiger scandal won't change sports journalism.)
Here's a relevant recent example: The biggest mainstream celebrity name in the NBA was recently allegedly cuckolding another NBA superstar. Again: Allegedly, Shaq was having freaky relations with Gilbert Arenas's wife. On its face, this seems like a juicy piece of news. But this didn't hit the radar, not because outlets like Deadspin were unafraid to discuss it, but because avid NBA fans really didn't care and casual (or non-) fans don't really care about Shaq's sex life, and certainly don't care at all about Gilbert Arenas.
Meanwhile, what other "scandals" can they cover: PED cheating? Not only totally out of TMZ's comfort zone, but a topic fans have proven again and again not to care about. Think they'll be digging into Reggie Bush's financials to see if he got paid at USC? They're more likely to be hustling for pictures of Reggie out with Kim at the club last weekend. (Athlete sex tapes? OK: Maybe. But only for a brief flurry of attention. I suspect fans have no interest in seeing the starting QB on your fantasy team having sex. And those tapes are few and far between, not something you sustain a full-time site with.)
Beyond whether avid, casual or non- fans care about what TMZ Sports is going to offer, there is a serious question about the flow of scoops that would be necessary to sustain a site built on them. Deadspin does a better job than anyone at wrangling tips -- of really good stuff -- and it's still just a small part of the site's day-to-day coverage. (Their best original reporting has not been gossipy, by the way, but illuminating original in-depth research and explanation by Daulerio and Tommy Craggs.)
So does TMZ Sports make ESPN's job harder? Not really. If ESPN could largely sit out the Tiger Woods frenzy -- for whatever reason -- and not see even a minimum of erosion from its online audience or its brand, any OTHER athlete news or gossip -- at least negative news or gossip -- is a non-factor.
Does TMZ make other sports sites' jobs harder? Actually, it makes it easier. As quickly as TMZ can break an exclusive, the other sites can have them posted on their own sites -- happy to credit TMZ, but understanding that their own fans are served just fine by the commoditized scoop. (For examples, see every step of the Tiger scandal.)
Does TMZ make Deadspin's job harder? Yes (nominally) and no. To the extent that Gawker Media is putting an emphasis on original reporting, that's a strong new competitor for what -- in the larger scheme of things -- are limited offerings. On the other hand, as quickly as TMZ breaks something, Deadspin can be all over the second-step angle. Let TMZ make the market, then Deadspin can hustle for those critical new details that the audience is looking for. You saw this throughout the Tiger Woods scandal. I zipped by TMZ to see if anything new was broken, but I went to Deadspin more frequently for comprehensive coverage and new angles I knew TMZ wouldn't have, because TMZ doesn't understand the sports fan audience like Deadspin understands the sports fan audience. (Now, if TMZ Sports wanted to pony up the quarter-million dollars -- plus bonuses -- it should to bring over an editor like Daulerio? Might be a different story.)
So I guess to sum up, archetypally, TMZ Sports' "extreme" gossip is the latest on Khloe and Lamar or cornering the market on athlete divorce lawyers spinning their clients' stories; Deadspin's "extreme" gossip is coverage of sexual affairs in the sports media industry and Daulerio going on a date with a divorced Linda Cohn.
Last point: What about the money? Because if Tiger coverage showed us anything, it's all about the business imperatives.
Is there even a business to TMZ-style sports gossip? Sports isn't your typical Hollywood entertainment. To one of Brooks' points, there is a monopoly at the top. There are a limited number of extremely powerful players. And, mostly, fans don't really care in the same way that entertainment fans care about their celebrities.
So who is the audience? If it's avid sports fans, they're disinterested and not coming (and traditional sports advertisers trying to reach those avid fans won't give you their dollars anyway). If it's casual fans, the names involved aren't appealing enough to visit the site (and non-sports advertisers that might want to reach casual or non-sports fans don't care about spending on sports-related sites... not when they can spend on TMZ or US Weekly or People, all of whom can very easily cherry-pick relatively the rare juicy crossover sports-related coverage.)
In short: Is TMZSports.com solving a problem no one needs or wants or cares to be solved?
There's no question: Deadspin has proven that there is a market for provocative sports reporting. But Deadspin has a very finely honed sense of what works -- and, for all the clout, it's not a huge audience or a particularly big business. By driving what other sports media folks -- sports radio, bloggers, even ESPN from time to time -- talk about, it has massive influence. But it's sports fans talking to sports fans. I'm not sure how TMZSports.com fits into that.
Finally, let's all stipulate to something: No wailing, navel-gazing discussion of "But is it good/bad for sports journalism?!" The market conditions are the market conditions, and judgments about whether a new entrant is "good" or "bad" for the industry is pretty useless. (See all the hand-wringing about the Tiger coverage.)
The more important questions are, internally at sports-media companies, "How does this affect my business?" and, externally for fans, "How does this coverage resonate with me?"
I suspect that when TMZ finally digs into the business, they will realize that they are better off trying to make sports a compelling sliver of their core TMZ.com product, rather than trying to build an entire business around it.
Otherwise, they might as well go the route of the New York Post and simply create a spin-off site dedicated to covering all things Tiger scandal.
UPDATE: Daulerio has a very good post about all this stuff.
Jimmie Johnson is a nice choice by the AP. Mariano Rivera is a nice choice by Sporting News. But both turn a blind eye to the story of the year in sports.
Sorry: Sometimes, they're just not the happy ones. Sometimes, it's the scandalous ones -- actually, it takes an extreme scandal to eclipse some of the truly amazing accomplishments of a sports year (say, Usain Bolt redefining speed).
And the Tiger scandal qualifies. By almost any measure, it is the sports scandal of the year -- perhaps more epically (but for once, I'll refrain from that). It is the sports STORY of the year. It makes him the sports FIGURE of the year.
The other guys represent nice stories. Tiger represents THE story.
That's the lead of today's SN column, which includes a lot more:
*Still sucks to be the Giants.
*Really sucks to be Eric Mangini.
*Tyreke Evans > Brandon Jennings
*For Dec. 22, we've got a pretty good bowl game.
*Kentucky may have 2000 wins, but their most memorable game remains a loss.
See the entire thing here. More later -- you cannot think that I won't have an opinion about "TMZSports.com."
Monday, December 21, 2009
(alphabetical by author)
Our Boys (Joe Drape) link
The Big One (David Kinney) link
Where Men Win Glory (Jon Krakauer) link
Born To Run (Christopher McDougall) link
Heart of the Game (SL Price) link
Faith and Fear in Flushing (Greg Prince) link
On Rocky Top (Clay Travis) link
Football Fan's Manifesto (Michael Tunison) link
The Beckham Experiment (Grant Wahl) link
Pro and College Basketball Prospectus 2010 (Pelton, Gasaway et al) link
More important: What books made YOUR list?
Didn't read myself. Heard they were good:
*The Art of a Beautiful Game (Chris Ballard)
*Open (JR Moehringer)
*The Rocket That Fell to Earth (Jeff Pearlman)
*The Machine (Joe Posnanski)
*The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons) link
*Outcasts United (Warren St. John)
*The Yankee Years (Tom Verducci)
*Blood in the Cage (Jon Wertheim)
Any others you would recommend?
Looking ahead to highly anticipated releases in 2010:
*As-Yet-Untitled Pro Basketball History (Free Darko)
*The Game From Where I Stand (Doug Glanville)
*Mint Condition (Dave Jamieson)
*Blood, Sweat and Chalk (Tim Layden)
*Are We Winning? (Will Leitch)
*Death to the BCS (Dan Wetzel)
*Cardboard Gods (Josh Wilker)
And then there is the open question: Is 2010 the year that MY book comes out? I mean: 600 posts' worth of thinking and writing (in four months) HAVE to be good for something, right?
To the extent that the Vikings' game against the Panthers could be irrelevant to the team's larger playoff aspirations, it was -- and that Favre doesn't see the bigger picture is as obvious as it is typical as it is predictable. (And so naturally, a logical lead for today's SN column!)
There were enough other interesting things that happened, right? The Steelers' last-play insanity, the 7-7 logjam, even the second-day storyline of the Cowboys toppling the Saints.
That said, am I the only one who thinks that the playoff scenarios are a little overblown? It feels like at least 5 -- possibly all 6 -- of the slots in each conference are all-but-spoken-for.
Look: It would be a shame if the Broncos simply won out and made the six-team 7-7 freak-out a non-issue. Or if the Cowboys denied their recent legacy by winning in December, making whatever the Giants do tonight and the next two weeks moot.
The good news is that, if last season's collapse is any indication, the Broncos are no lock -- and we all know how the Cowboys do in December (Saints win notwithstanding).
So there's hope yet, if your interest is in having at least a 6th playoff spot up in the air in Weeks 16 and 17. Not sure why Favre is bugging out over a game that really doesn't matter.
More you'll find in today's column:
*Jerome Harrison: Fantasy Game of the Year?
*Texas hoops: OK, I'm buying.
*Seth Davis has a point about Bobby Knight.
*Who needs Dirk?
*You should have watched the New Orleans Bowl, apparently.
Lots more in the column, with more coming here later.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Big day around here. No, not the snowstorm on the East Coast. No, not the celebration of the last day of Hanukkah (although my wife did make some insanely good latkes this morning). No, it's graduation day at the University of Florida. The Gainesville Sun is covering the Tebow angle with a cover story, and quoted me right at the top. Yet one more bit of closure on Tebow's college career.
More on the radar today:
*Anyone else watching UNC-Texas? I hate hoops games in massive football stadiums.
*Seriously, how many more violations does USC football have to have before the NCAA finally says "Enough." It's like thy have an unlimited free pass.
*Say this about the Mariners: They're trying to compete. There would be no other reason to take on the crazy that is Milton Bradley. But when his head is on right, he's so good.
*Name to Know: Matt Szczur, the Villanova all-purpose threat who caught 2 TDs and ran for 159 yards to lead Villanova to an undisputed college football national championship.
*Speaking of Florida, Carlos Dunlap is going to play in the Sugar Bowl -- a game too late.
Last thing: I know that I didn't set up a College Bowl Pick 'Em group this week -- I believe, if memory serves, that I actually won last year's Pick 'Em group. That would be reason enough to retire, but I really enjoy competing with everyone. So even though I'm very late, I created a Pick 'Em group for you to sign up for -- the usual group name ("Daily Quickie Readers"). To be fair to those not seeing it until Monday, I'll weight the lowest possible number of points to the three bowls happening this weekend. My system last year was to simply weight results in increasing value chronologically, as bowls happen. My apologies. I meant to do it two weeks ago.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Anyway, there's a ton in the column today:
*If the Colts are going to give up 31 points to the Jaguars, how many would they give up to the Saints?
*How the Bengals deal with the death of Chris Henry is a massively emotional storyline, but the fate of the Cowboys (against the Saints) and the AFC 7-6/6-7 log-jam will have more people interested.
*Bob Knight let off a broadside on John Calipari that might even make me like Knight. I certainly respect him for saying it.
*Watching PGA honcho Tim Finchem wriggle around in this Tiger mess is fascinating. He has to present confidence the Tour can survive without Tiger (ha), but he can't be so glib that he offends Tiger (ha).
*SN announced their athletes of the year, and I have a few issues. I'm actually not down on Mo Rivera as Pro AOY (better than Jeter!), although I'd make an equally strong (or stronger) case for Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees or Kobe.
*And SN names Colt McCoy their College AOY, which is wrong on a couple of levels -- SN just named Mark Ingram its CFB Player of the Year; Tim Tebow had a much stronger year -- January to December -- than McCoy, and if you've opened it to all college athletes, Tyler Hansbrough has a much stronger case than McCoy.
*I had an eye on that prep hoops game last night between No. 1-ranked Findlay (which I think is an astonishingly -- almost admirably astonishing -- cynical prep-hoops factory) and Northland (Ohio), which pulled the upset behind this awesome kid Jared Sullinger.
*I think we can all feel kind of bad for Cliff Lee. He certainly does.
Check out the entire column here. More later.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
(I always get very nostalgic about the college basketball section at ESPN.com. I was ESPN.com's college hoops editor from '96-'97, and the beat has a long, proud lineage of editors, contributors and innovations. Oh, and you get to drive during the NCAA Tournament, which is fun.)
This decade has produced the best players ever in their respective sports in a ton of sports:
The common link: All are "individual" sports with little or no dependencies on others.
But Jimmie Johnson is arguably the greatest NASCAR driver ever. This decade, Barry Bonds established himself as arguably the greatest baseball hitter ever. LeBron may not be the best basketball player ever (yet), but he was certainly the best high school basketball player ever. And you could make a strong case that Carmelo was the best college hoops player ever. You could even make the case that, over the course of the decade, Peyton established himself as one of the greatest NFL players ever. And, yes, I'm willing to make the argument that Tim Tebow's career was the greatest of any player in college football history.
It's a testament to training. Cynically, we could say that's a euphemism for performance-enhancing drugs -- legal or otherwise -- but even above-board training methods are so advanced that it can take otherwise supremely skilled and blessed athletes (and most are some combination of natural physical gifts and extremely hard work) and turn them into "best evers."
I'll have a lot more to say about the decade -- I'd like to think that this argument is part of the larger argument that, if nothing else, this decade was overwhelmed by instant history and the superlatives that go with it. And I'd like to think that I had even a proud part of that through the Quickie. But I didn't start something -- I was merely an early adopter; "instant history" was an inevitability across media, sports and otherwise.
Lots more coming over the next two weeks on the decade we have just experienced -- and what's to come in 2010.
More you'll find in today's column:
*Kobe: His best season yet?
*Colts-Jags. Sorry, Time Warner, I wouldn't have watched anyway.
*Chris Henry: WTF?! -- updated, this is just sad, as is any death.
*Mark Ingram versus Ndamuknong Suh
*Would Jed Hoyer really trade Adrian Gonzalez?
Lots more in there. More later.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
First, a caveat: I cannot see the Big Ten adopting an SEC-style championship game. I wish they would, but -- remember -- this is the league that hates playoffs in all forms.
There are a lot of contenders out there that have been tossed around: Pitt, Mizzou, Rutgers... obviously, Notre Dame is a non-starter. I hadn't seen one name that I think is the best fit of all:
I'm going to crib from my own column this morning for the reasons why:
*Academic credentials are impeccable.After thinking through the reasons why it works, I cannot understand why this isn't the obvious choice.
*Football program is solid.
*Triple-option is "3 Yards/Cloud" 2.0
*Can keep trad'l games w/ Army, AFA, ND.
*Better than Notre Dame.
*Nearly beat Ohio State this season.
*Non-competitive recruiting strategy.
*But expands B10 footprint in the East.
*Feds could use the BCS bowl revenue.
*It is entirely uncontroversial.
(UPDATE: Got an email from someone with a smart point -- Navy would kill the Big Ten's hoops schedule strength. So pull a page from Notre Dame hoops and the Big East: Navy comes into the Big Ten for football only. Probably should have thought that through. Great point. Maybe yoink Notre Dame from the Big East as a hoops addition in the Big Ten, but I'm not sure Big Ten basketball needs a 12th team as much as football does.)
More you'll find in today's column:
*I don't care about 18-0 Colts vs. 18-0 Saints in the Super Bowl. The entire story is whether or not the Saints win the Super Bowl, at all. (Doing it perfectly would be a bonus -- it doesn't really matter who they play to pull it off.)
*Central Michigan is Cincinnati's coaching pipeline -- and, given the track record, why shouldn't it be?
*My once-a-season moment for Jon Scheyer cheerleading. Yes, I hate that I am his fan -- he is the most disliked player in college basketball. You think I want to root for that? Plus: You know how much I dislike Duke hoops. At least I only have a few more months to go.
*The Rockets already proved they don't need Tracy McGrady to be a playoff contender in the West; here's hoping they are giving him a 10 mpg showcase so that they can offload him.
*What we can learn from the best-ever audience for this season's Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Lots more, too. More coming later. Don't forget to check out the post below for my latest take-your-kid-to-sports-event experiment in the NYT.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A funny thing happened, although not entirely unexpected: In the days following the story's publication, the Knicks reached out to me to invite me to bring Gabe to their Kids Day, which was held two Sundays ago.
The Times agreed to publish a follow-up piece from me about the experience -- the comparison, really -- of taking my kid to the Knicks game. And it went live on their site this afternoon.
Check it out here, and let me know what you think. It begs some interesting questions -- more than anything, about how much you want to spend on taking your kid to a sports event (and what kind of value you get for your money).
More on that in a little bit.
Meanwhile, there are supposed to be a couple of photos on the post. I think they'll get included at some point, but here are a few:
“I would really ask that you guys don’t write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won’t be, let’s please give the kid a break.”
It is one more example of Team Tiger complete mis-reading the situation. First, how they could send that email without off-the-record restrictions attached to it is insane.
But, more importantly, the best thing that could happen to Tiger is that, somehow, the subject gets changed. It doesn't matter that the new subject is PEDs. In fact, better that the subject is PEDs in sports than Tiger's alleged predilection for PEDs in the bedroom.
Despite his team's insistent spin-blundering, here's the good news for Tiger: Nothing turns fans off -- let alone non-fans -- like the discussion of PEDs. No one cares.
They want sex scandal, not steroid scandal. If PEDs take over the discussion, then most people -- fans and non-fans alike -- are changing the channel, looking for the next titillating thing.
That is exactly what Tiger needs.
I actually honestly believe that he has never cheated in golf -- he saves the cheating for his wife. He actually respects the game -- unlike his absent respect for his family.
Is there always a weird haze at the nexus of injured athletes and doctors practicing "innovative" treatments? Yes. You never know -- I would imagine that most athletes don't want to know, and most docs don't want to tell. Everyone feels better, and that's all that matters.
But the best thing that could happen to Tiger is to get wrapped up in some boring extraneous steroid scandal that he will ultimately be not implicated in.
"Don't write this?" One more piece of mismanagement of Tiger, Inc.
(You can read more on this in today's SN column, which also includes discussion of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, John Lackey and the Red Sox, the Angels and the Yankees, Jake Locker and bad decision-making and more.)
Monday, December 14, 2009
"The reason that I voted for Ingram, Tebow and McCoy was because I saw them play the most. I never saw Gerhart play an entire game (we work all day Saturday and Saturday night) and only saw a few minutes of Suh’s game against Texas. I refused to vote for somebody based on highlights. And I think you have to represent your part of the country; in fact, there used to be fine print on the paper ballots that instructed balloters to vote “with regard to your region.” However, I think it’s wrong to leave a player off your ballot completely just to help a player from your region, as apparently the case with some Big 12 voters on Tebow year. So I, too, an still unhappy about that injustice."Good god. I shouldn't have to say more, but I will:
The Heisman Trust needs to have a review of all voter credentials. (I like Volin's approach to limit voting to the former winners and a limited, even rotating, group of media experts who would have to debate the decision around a table, not unlike the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)
But, more simply, it just needs to be transparent: I want to know who this quote is from. I want to know who everyone voted for. I want to know, because if the Heisman is truly the most prestigious individual award in sports, the fans have a right to know how it is determined.
Not marriage. Not privacy. Not the media. Not a person's individual failings or tastes.
Oh, for Tiger -- who is already rich beyond need -- it might be about his family or is salvaging his reputation (probably only the latter, given the cavalier way he treated the former).
But everyone else has a very serious financial stake in Tiger: The PGA, other golfers, the media (particularly the sports media), the sponsors.
That's what made Accenture's cancellation of Tiger's deal such a big deal: It's about the money.
And why Tiger's "leave" -- what a joke -- is also about the money.
Mistake after mistake, Tiger still doesn't seem to get it: It's in everyone's best interests - including his own -- if he just takes a beating for a few weeks. Then, it's over.
Really: That quickly.
Everyone with a financial stake has a vested interest in getting this behind them. It's a shame Tiger won't let them.
Tiger and the money question is the lead of today's SN column, but there's a ton more: About the wild AFC Wild Card situation; about the NFC East champ and runner-up backing into the playoffs; about Mark Ingram and the lessons of the '09 Heisman; about LeBron schooling Kevin Durant; about celebrating Prairie View A&M.
Check it out here. More later.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Tim Tebow finished 5th -- who were the 43 voters who gave him a 1st-place vote? I mean: Even *I* wouldn't do that.
I have a few thoughts on Tiger, but I'm still putting them together. Definitely by Monday morning's column. The gist is this:
After continuously screwing up how he has handled -- and is handling -- this, Tiger finds a way to screw it up even further.
He should be playing golf TODAY. He should be making himself available to all of it -- the jeers, the jokes, the sycophantic sports media coverage.
He needs to let the sports media provide some ballast against the tabloids -- sports media is dying to talk about Tiger, just anything BUT this scandal.
And he needs to let everyone take their shots -- and punch themselves to exhaustion: Rope-a-dope. It would be painful for a few weeks... then there'd be nothing left to say.
Instead: He hides, thinking he can out-last this. When this broke, in its first day, I thought Tiger was big enough to pull it off. He's not. He needs to get crushed to his face, so he can rebuild.
Quick story: I'm at the store today and I walk past the sports-drink aisle. And then I see the Gatorade Tiger-branded bottle. And I chuckled. Then I pointed it out to the random person standing next to me, and THEY chuckled.
Not sure why he's prolonging this for himself.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I am actually here to say that Ndamukong Suh's insurgent candidacy is the greatest thing ever to happen in Heisman balloting.
This isn't Charles Woodson earning a Heisman not because he was a shut-down cornerback, but because he scored a couple of offensive touchdowns on top of it.
This is a defensive lineman -- perhaps the best defensive lineman of all time -- making a run at the Heisman Trophy, basically on the strength of a single game.
Oh, sure, Suh had an awesome year. You know what that normally gets a defensive lineman, in terms of Heisman support? Zilch.
But because he put on one of the great individual displays of destruction... in a game that everyone was watching... directly against the clubhouse Heisman leader: He catapulted himself.
It's not just that Suh has earned more 1st-place votes than any other contender with 25 percent o the ballots counted (by StiffarmTrophy.com). That's impressive enough.
No, what tips the balance to "so best Heisman contender ever" is that in the process of vaulting his own campaign, he totally destroyed Colt McCoy's.
Please consider that as recently as last Friday, McCoy was considered the favorite. Oh, sure, Mark Ingram was going to get votes if Alabama beat Florida. (Sorry: "When.")
But McCoy was still considered the guy to beat in all of the straw polls. He had all the standard Heisman credentials: "QB of an undefeated team," and the "he's due" vote.
Then Suh destroyed him, nearly KO'ing his national-title shot, let alone his Heisman cred. And, all of a sudden, with so many voters holding their ballots until Saturday night, Suh had vaulted himself to the top -- and had undercut McCoy's entire campaign.
As you can see at StiffarmTrophy, McCoy is 4th -- totally out of it. And while it appears that many voters submitted their ballots for Ingram after the SECCG but before the Big 12 title game, Suh is right in the middle of it.
Even if Suh doesn't win, he might get more 1st-place votes than any other contender.
Here's the real crime: How many Heisman voters didn't even THINK to put Suh on their ballot, because he doesn't play RB or QB, particularly for a top team?
I'm proud of the voters who championed Suh's cause -- and the ones who followed through with an unprecedented level of support for a defensive player.
But I think you'll see: Suh will be left off enough ballots that it will -- and should -- make you question why the Heisman vote is given to 900 people, many of whom have no business voting.
Those are the ones who are most likely to ignore Suh. That's too bad for them. They could have had a part in history as supporting the most interesting Heisman contender ever.
UPDATE: I only just now saw Dr. Saturday's post talking about this Heisman race as the most fascinating in years -- I'd call it "most fascinating ever," but that's quibbling. I just wanted to point you all to it, because it's really well done. And to disclaim that I hadn't seen it before I wrote up my own opinions. But it's worth your time to read. Great minds...
It was the obvious lead for my SN column today, but there are a couple other notable storylines:
*Steelers humiliated by Browns: It's not just that the Browns eliminated the defending champs from any hope of making the playoffs this year; it's that the Browns eliminated the Steelers from contention as "NFL Team of the Decade."
*Colt McCoy cleans up the hardware: This is kind of awkward. McCoy won the Maxwell for "Best All-Around," and he may not even finish in the Top 3 in the Heisman balloting. Ndamukong Suh may finish with more 1st-place votes than any other Heisman candidate, yet wasn't even close to being a Maxwell finalist. And Mark Ingram -- who IS most likely to win the Heisman -- couldn't even win the award for being the best at his position (the Doak Walker for top RB went to Toby Gerhart, certainly a fine choice).
*I knew that Florida would lose to Syracuse in hoops last night. I was concerned they would lose by 20+; that they did better than that gives me some hope. Syracuse is a very very good team -- definitely good enough to make the Final Four.
*You all know I'm a huge "let the fans vote" person. Here's what I have to say about the early NBA All-Star returns that have T-Mac in the West starting lineup -- it's exactly that: "early." Give it a few more weeks, and non-Houston fans will clearly create a correction in the marketplace.
Check out the entire column here. More later.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In hiring Brian Kelly -- the school's best coach since Lou Holtz (and, I will argue, will be even better than Holtz in the long run) -- Notre Dame has re-emerged as a Top 10 football power.
Mark it down: Kelly will have Notre Dame in a BCS-level bowl game NEXT YEAR. And while I'm not sure he'll ever win a national title, he will have them in a BCS bowl game as long as Notre Dame gets an automatic BCS bid for earning 10 wins. 10-2 seasons will be the minimum.
I'm torn: I'm a classic Notre Dame loather -- but I'm a huge Brian Kelly fan. I'm bummed that Notre Dame will re-emerge as a football powerhouse, but I like that they will do it the "right way" -- Kelly's way.
But I buy the argument that it is in the best interests of college football that Notre Dame be very very good. I'm sure I will regret that next year when they're 11-1 and I hate them even more.
The Weis Era is a distant memory, as of Thursday night. The Kelly Era is here.
And it's going to be very very successful. Sucks for the rest of us.
This fall for me, it hasn't just been all Tim Tebow obsession and media consulting (and opining). I spent the fall semester helping Jeff Jarvis teach his "Entrepreneurial Journalism" course at City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.
I loved being in the classroom -- and loved working with the students even more. The assignment was "easy": Over the course of the term, develop a journalism business that would ultimately be pitched to a jury of media industry stars -- charged with dispensing $50,000 in grant money.
What I loved most was the sense of innovation -- of possibility -- that the students brought to the challenge. Some ideas were grandiose, some were limited -- all were ultimately born of the passion of the student, which is the right foundation as they became journalism-entrepreneurs.
The jury ultimately selected four ideas to fund, and they represent a handful of the ways journalism is being innovated (I'm obviously not going to tell you about the businesses themselves):
One was from a journalist whose background was software development -- this fits right into the new nexus of journalism and engineering. One was about solving an acute problem with citizen journalism. One plays in the world of social media. And one was about the journalist as a multi-platform brand unto herself, not relying on the traditional route of a single media company making stars out of reporters. (It reminded me of the plan I first created in business school to create what would become The Daily Quickie.)
Ultimately, all journalists need to think entrepreneurially, whether they are starting their own business or simply working within a larger, more (or less) established organization. Opportunities are everywhere -- now more than ever, ironically enough. And the imperative to innovate -- not just technologically, but in our assumptions about the business -- has never been greater.
Yes, funding (not to mention a revenue model) is always going to be an issue, but there is no limit to the challenges that need solving, particularly in a landscape that keeps changing.
Jeff put it best (and it is echoed in David Carr's "fresh, ferocious wave" column from a few weeks ago -- Carr was on the jury, by the way): The students' effort -- and others like it across the country -- is the biggest reason to feel fundamentally optimistic about the future of journalism and the future of media.
As big as the Wall-led Kentucky win over UNC last Saturday was, last night may have been his true OK-this-guy-is-the-biggest-thing-since-Iverson moment: On ESPN in primetime at Madison Square Garden, leading Kentucky past UConn with a career-high 25 points and 7 steals -- including one that was absolutely ridiculous, plucking a safe pass that has no business being stolen out of the air, racing down the court and dunking, and one.
At this point, Wall is bigger than Melo was after 9 games -- way bigger. He's bigger than Durant. He's bigger than Beasley. He's leaps and bounds bigger than Derrick Rose. He's a one-man mania.
So Wall leads today's SN column, but there's a ton more:
*Didn't I tell you not to be surprised when Notre Dame edged away from Brian Kelly to another candidate? There's no way Randy Edsall is more qualified than Kelly -- and yet ND seems to be very interested in Edsall. Hmm...
*Ndamukong Suh is this year's Tim Tebow, at least as far as the Heisman voting is concerned: He'll get the most 1st-place votes, but finish in 3rd place. With Tebow last year, that was because Big 12 voters intentionally left him off their ballots, to game the system for their guys; with Suh, I honestly think it's because many voters don't even know about him. Which is WAY worse.
*I cannot be more clear about this: Not only is Mack Brown worth $5 million a year, that -- along with the salaries of the other elite coaches, like Meyer, Saban and Carroll -- is the biggest bargain in sports. Given how important an elite coach is to making a program elite, I have no idea why schools don't spend commensurate dollars -- again, with my "Notre Dame should have offered Urban Meyer $100 million over 10 years" idea, which people scoff at, but the ROI is obvious.
*Big CFB awards show tonight. I'm curious if early voting for the Maxwell or O'Brien will give Tebow either of those awards ahead of the equally deserving Mark Ingram and Colt McCoy.
Lots more in today's column. More later.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Here's the larger point: The Tournament thrives not because of who is in it, but the format itself. Most fans can't tell you Coppin State from South Carolina, but they know that a "15" beating a "2" is really really fun. Or that a buzzer-beater is fun, regardless of whether it's from a "name" brand like UNC or a relatively anonymous Western Kentucky.
Fans love the first Thursday and Friday not because the quality is particularly good, but because there's a ton of games all day long on a day they'd otherwise be working; they have made predictions about those games' outcomes with their coworkers; and it's fun -- regardless of who's playing or how "good" they might be. As long as a handful of games are close and there are even a handful of upsets, fans will be happy. And to double that experience would be universally loved. To assume otherwise would be like saying "If you expand it from 32 to 64, it'll RUIN the Tournament!"
Anyway, my pal Mike touched a nerve -- expanding the Tournament is one of my favorite issues.
More you'll find in today's column:
*As you saw in the post last night, I'm a big fan of ND presumably hiring Brian Kelly, even if that means we won't have Notre Dame to kick around anymore.
*Charlie Strong is a great hire for Louisville, and Louisville is a great opportunity for Strong.
*Who had "early December in his first year" for Lane Kiffin's first potential major NCAA violation?
*Ndamukong Suh is going to get the Tim Tebow Heisman treatment from 2008: He is going to get the most 1st-place votes, but come in no better than 3rd because enough dumb voters will leave his name of their ballots entirely.
*Was last night a break-through for Greg Monroe?
*Go pick up your bottle of "Gatorade Tiger" drink, because it's going to be a collector's item.
Check out the complete column here. More later.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Let me say this: This is a GREAT hire. The best possible outcome. Kelly is, in my opinion, one of the Top 5 coaches in college football -- and certainly the best available one.
Even without Clausen/Tate, Kelly will have Notre Dame in a BCS bowl game NEXT season, and a perennial BCS bowl team after that. Not necessarily a national championship, but 9-10 Ws.
Again: This is a superb hire, by a school that hasn't had one since they brought in Lou Holtz.
Notre Dame fans should be exceptionally happy about this. The long nightmare is over... hope everyone else has enjoyed the era of schadenfreude at ND's expense. That's history.
*Nore Dame reaching out to Brian Kelly. Love that he broke the news himself via Twitter. I'm still not convinced ND really wants to hire him.
*Ndamukong Suh making a run at the Heisman -- he's Top 3! -- and, in the process, knocking Colt McCoy OUT of the Top 3.
*Danica Patrick is joining NASCAR, if in a limited role. Doesn't matter: She'll be the biggest thing to hit the sport in the "Post-E" Era.
*Elin walked out on Tiger. Good for her! Maybe Oprah wants to book Elin, not Tiger.
*NCAA tournament expanding to 96: I love this idea. You know me: I want them to replace Championship Week by expanding the Tournament to EVERY team.
*AI back in Philly: At least there's one thing to keep 76ers basketball interesting.
I'm covering all that and a lot more in today's SN column. Check it out here. More later.