Friday, January 23, 2009

Saturday 01/24 (Very) Quickie: Catching Up!

So you have one unexpected appendectomy and you miss all sorts of good stuff...

Chiefs fire Herman Edwards: You knew this was coming, and you can't say he didn't deserve it. But with a new GM, there was no way Edwards was going to be retained.

So who replaces him? I don't think it will be Mike Shanahan, and the original reporting -- then retracting -- of the story indicates that they are going another way. I expect that Pioli doesn't want a re-tread. If he had only acted faster, he could have had Josh McDaniels. (But maybe he wants to go away from the Belichick coaching tree. Or will he go after Kirk Ferentz?)

LeBron hits a buzzer-beating game-winner: Of course he did. As the votes for "First-Half MVP" roll in, I have to believe James is going to win in a landslide.

(More intriguing: Eric Gordon had 41 last night in a Clippers win over the Thunder. Yes, it was the Thunder, but I'm convinced there aren't a TON of players in the NBA who can just go out and score 41, particularly as a rookie. Maybe 50 total? 100? No more than 30 percent of the league. But you just KNOW that OJ Mayo is saying: "Oh, I can totally beat that...")

UPDATE: I'm a total moron. Um, beyond Gordon's about Durant's 46? I guess in a loss (and the haze of post-op Vicodin) it gets lost.

Northwestern wins at Michigan State: You have to understand the historical (and recent) futility of NU hoops to recognize how massive this was. Top 3 regular-season win in the last 20 years ('88 vs. Indiana; '94 vs. Michigan... the '94 NIT win over DePaul doesn't count.)

No. 1 Wake Forest loses to Virginia Tech: Well, now I have NO idea what bandwagon to climb on. (Meanwhile: West Virginia beats Georgetown -- god, the Big East is so freaking amazing this season.)

Celtics clock the Magic: Obviously, Boston wanted to prove they were still tops in the East -- and wow did they ever. That was some textbook defense -- and why Orlando won't topple Boston this spring in the playoffs. The young Magic should consider acquiring a rotation player with deep playoff experience, if only to show them how to step up when it matters.

NBA All-Stars: The only intrigue was Amare. Otherwise: I'm glad Chris Paul earned the starting spot; I'm not sure Allen Iverson deserves it, unless he is the designated "just plain popular, if not deserving" spot. Which is totally fair -- it IS an exhibition, after all. Reserves should be more interesting.

Cubs get a new owner: I like that the guy is a Cubs fan. Used to live near Wrigley. Met his future wife at a Cubs game. Of the three qualities you want in a sports owner, they are: (1) Tons of money (and willing to spend it); (2) Smart enough to hire smart people to run the team; (3) A true fan of the team.

Lions hire Scott Linehan as Offensive Coordinator: Love this hire. Linehan couldn't head-coach his way out of a paper bag, but as an OC, there's no denying the guy is smart. And he joins up with a really smart H.C. in Jim Schwartz.

Jeff Kent retires: Not a nice guy, but his stats are undeniable. Haven't had a chance to see how the SABR-friendly folks have weighed in on him, so how else would I know what to think about it?

Ben Sheets to the Rangers? That has to come with a huge "IF he's healthy..." caveat. Think he's willing to sign a deal that ties payment to his health? When healthy, a top 5 pitcher in the league. But he's hardly ever truly healthy.

Senior Bowl tonight: And the biggest winner was BJ Raji, the BC DT. And I'm so thrilled to see Derrick Williams have a great week and move himself into the first round. What a great player he is, right up there with Harvin and Maclin as the most dynamic and versatile WR talents in the country.)

Back tomorrow a.m. as usual.

-- D.S.

What's Wrong With Sports Journalism

The canard of no cheering in the press box, the absurdity of which won't be illustrated any better than Larry Fitzgerald's father. I say: Cheer away, Dad!

Brief Hiatus: Back Tomorrow

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obamaball: Sally Jenkins' Agenda for Sports

As usual, a provocative take from the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins -- laying out an agenda of sports reform for President Obama. I would call it hit-or-miss:

(1) Get rid of the BCS. Really? As the No. 1 priority? For a thoughtful sports thinker like Jenkins, this is ludicrous. (She is correct, however, that a simple threat of taking away college tax benefits would be a game-changer.)

(2) Declare freshman ineligible. Hate it. Only if it went hand-in-hand with insisting that the NFL and NBA got rid of their age minimums for draft eligibility. Forcing a pro-worthy player to toil in college for two years -- when they have no actual interest in college beyond its role as a stepping-stone to the pros -- is counter-productive.

(3) Dress more appropriately for golf. A bit prudish, but fair.

(4) Play Candace Parker 1-on-1 at the White House, to generate more support for women's basketball. I like the symbol, but it's pretty empty -- leagues must move the needle themselves.

(5) National Anthem played IN TUNE at all sports events. Fair, but here's a better idea: Ditch the Anthem for "America the Beautiful" or -- as witnessed Sunday -- "This Land Is Your Land."

(6) Save tennis. Eh. This is like saving the banking industry -- the sport did this to themselves.

(7) Final Four back in arenas, not domes. Better idea: 75 percent of tickets must be ear-marked for fans. Even better idea: All major sports championships must earmark more tickets for fans than are given to corporate sponsors, and at reasonable rates.

(8) Equal pay for women's sports. I fully support it, but Jenkins cherry-picks the Pearl-Summitt comparison. When women's sports bring in the revenue of men's, it is a stronger argument. (See women's tennis, where pay inequity is a joke.) For women in the front office? Absolutely. And, while we're at it: More women and minorities in the front office.

(9) Pardon Marion Jones. You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry that prosecutors haven't done a better job with the other steroid felons, but that doesn't mean Jones should get off. Her betrayal of sports and fans was one of the Top 3 worst of the 20th Century in American sports. She didn't seem particularly remorseful when she was collecting all those medals -- or collecting all those endorsement checks.

(10) Force Dan Snyder to hire a GM. Now THERE you go.

I would add a few others:
-Obliterate AAU and start over.
-Mandate any team relocating to give a substantial cash rebate to fans.
-Develop an unobtrusive test for HGH.
-Legalize sports gambling but tax the hell out of it.
-Name Tim Tebow to lead President's Council on Physical Fitness.

From the serious to the silly, do you have any other items on a sports to-do list for Obama?

-- D.S.

Cool (Paid) Writing Opp About Fantasy MLB

My company is launching a comprehensive fantasy baseball preview, and I wanted to invite anyone interested to register at the site and take part. The individual preview articles (by position, team, category) are paid -- not a ton, but something -- and you will have an additional clip to point to. Plus, it should be fun; in the end, you're writing about baseball. The claims are going fast, so check it out. Sign up, go to the "Call for Content" area, look for the baseball assignments, claim them and get paid to publish about fantasy baseball. -- D.S.

Obamaball: Sox vs. Cubs At The C-in-C Ball:
Take Me Out To the (Inaugural) Ball Game

During the Commander-in-Chief Ball, did you see Obama's interview with all those military folks from Chicago?

Obama was like "White Sox or Cubs?" He's being televised on multiple networks live, and THAT is what he wants to ask them about. It's a question only a real fan cares about.

And they all (all but one) kept saying "Cubs," and you could see Obama was playfully miffed. "Terrible," he muttered. I love that.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 01/21 A.M. Quickie:
Obama, Gruden, Parcells, Duke, More

OK, so back to work. Or get started working.

But it almost felt like the sports world -- along with everyone else -- came to a standstill yesterday for the Inauguration. (Leads today's SN column.)

No matter: No. 44 is at work, and the rest of us are, too.

Should Jon Gruden be at Notre Dame? ND fans unhappy with Charlie Weis may see Gruden as a fun alternative, but pro-to-college coaches tend to...well...suck.

Bill Parcells is still at work for the Dolphins: And it sounds like he will be, at least for the next year.

College seniors are looking for NFL work at the Senior Bowl: Is Pat White auditioning as a QB or a Wildcat specialist that every team will want/need next season?

(And will Oklahoma exile Rhett Bomar pull off the Comeback of the Year in college football?)

Gerald Henderson is hard at work for Duke: I don't expect Coach K to tell Singler and Scheyer and Paulus to defer to Henderson, but they should -- he is the best player on the team.

Bill Self might be working a little TOO hard: John Wall IS awesome, but Self knew better than to talk with him -- he even said so when he talked with him.

Can we get Theo Epstein in the new administration in some capacity? His ability to avoid arbitration shows that he can generate consensus and results. (It's not like Papelbon got the short end: From $800K to $6.25M.)

Does Ryan Howard's work in '08 deserve a huge raise in '09? He made $10M in arbitration before the '08 season; then he had another monster season. Does that qualify him for a raise to $18M? Maybe on the open market, but probably not in arbitration if the Phillies do the right thing and at least offer him a raise into the mid-teens.

Complete SN column here. More later. Back to work, everyone.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TrueHoop Network Pwns NBA Coverage

News broke yesterday of's new blog network of NBA team bloggers. Henry Abbott announced it today, quite skillfully and comprehensively. And it's a very smart idea.

The benefit to ESPN is obvious: They substantially increase their depth of coverage on a team-by-team basis; they earn a lot of "blog cred"; and they now own all that blog traffic.

The benefit to the bloggers is obvious: Their sites are put in front of a vastly larger audience; they get to align themselves with the mainstream legitimacy of ESPN; they keep editorial control.

Feeling the brunt: Local newspaper NBA coverage. Oh, there is a critical role for the beat reporter; the best bloggers lean on (and credit) local beat folks.

But with the ESPN imprimateur, these bloggers -- the savviest ones, at least -- are one step from being solvent enough to expand their coverage to include beat reporting.

(Makes you wonder: Where is the loose confederation of newspapers that pay for NBA beat coverage, coming together and creating their own network of online content?)

Things I would like to see:

ESPN aggressively integrate the blogger content into their daily NBA coverage -- not just top stories, but into features, analysis, game recaps and more.

The bloggers take advantage of the affiliation with ESPN -- which team media relations departments can't help but respect -- to expand their coverage innovatively.

This has been hanging out there as an opportunity for every major sports-media site out there -- for years (even with SB Nation corralling some of the best into their network).

Kudos to Henry and ESPN for making this happen. They would be smart to do something similar in the other sports, too; THIS is what a "blog network" should be.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 01/20 A.M. Quickie:
Obama, Obama, Obama

Today is the biggest, proudest, most momentous day of my lifetime, at least my lifetime as an American.

That said, the moment defies superlative, defies hyperbole.

It is impossible for me to do it any justice. (Just watching the pundits on the morning news shows, you see how absurd it is to even try.)

There are the obvious sports tie-ins -- Obama as Fan-in-Chief (today's SN lead item), the tie-ins to the No. 44 (I have my own tribute).

The sports angle is cutesy, but I am far more heartened that we are entering a new era where smart is cool, competence is valued, execution is everything.

Otherwise, it largely defies description. It is just something to marvel at, to wonder at -- collectively -- like those images of the crowds on the Mall right now.

The moment is simultaneously intensely personal and entirely national. I'm left with the utterly inadequate: Wow.

-- D.S.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday 01/19 A.M. Quickie:
Cardinals, Steelers, Fitzgerald, ACC

As praised in today's SN column (though not quite in this way), the Cardinals' run to the Super Bowl is amazing on at least two levels:

To start, simply the fact that the Cardinals is going to the Super Bowl is huge on its face. (The Cardinals! The worst franchise in NFL history!)

But add on top of that, it's not like they were dominant this season or destined for the Super Bowl, like Kurt Warner's 1999 Rams team, which went from chump-ish to champs on a rail.

No, each and every week of these playoffs, the Cards have been discounted -- or counted out entirely. First round at home? Underdogs. Division round on the road? Underdogs. NFC Title Game at home? Underdogs. Meanwhile: Win, win, win. And decisively, each time.

It's a neat bit of judo: They are taking your expectations -- which couldn't be lower -- and using them to make their own accomplishments all the more incredible. If we EXPECTED them to win each week, it wouldn't nearly be as sweet as it is now.

For decades, the Cardinals were worse than losers -- they were irrelevant. Now: They are the latest incarnation of America's Team -- how can you root against them now?

But, please: Pick against them one more time.

Meanwhile, other things you'll find in today's SN column:

*Larry Fitzgerald has been elevated to NFL God status.
*Kurt Warner makes Tim Tebow look like an atheist.
*The McNabb Era is over in Philadelphia?
*The McGahee Era is over in Baltimore?
*Steve Spagnuolo will do more with less than Rex Ryan will do more with more.
*LeBron in a Browns jersey IS kind of awesome.
*Wake and Duke may be 1-2, but the Big East still rules.

Complete column here. More later. Enjoy your MLK Day -- the way the NBA treats it (with plenty of afternoon games and a marquee event -- Cavs-Lakers -- tonight) is kind of awesome.

-- D.S.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday 01/18 (Very) Quickie

Countdown to NFL conf-title games...

So, with Pitt losing at Louisville (with the way the Big East is this year and the way Louisville is playing in Big East play, that's hardly a scarring mark for Pitt), who should be No. 1?

It's down to either Duke or Wake.

Duke handled Georgetown impressively/aggravatingly enough, but they did it at home. At a neutral site or on the road, I'm not sure they beat the Hoyas.

Meanwhile, Wake won at Clemson -- you can say that Clemson was overrated/product of cupcake schedule/etc., but it was a rocking environment, and Wake handled it.

Plus, Wake has that win over UNC, which Duke doesn't have (yet), so I would give my No. 1 vote to Wake -- not that being No. 1 in any given week in college hoops means anything.

(Re: Duke, they need to make Henderson the focal point of the offense; he is their most potent offensive threat -- although he really needs to shave his head, because that widow's peak balding situation isn't intimidating at all.)

Also: Very impressive wins by Syracuse (over ND) and Arizona State (over UCLA, at UCLA)

Rams hire Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo: The Rams are a mess, but -- in line with my comment about Schwartz and the Lions -- this is the best thing to happen to the Rams franchise since they won the Super Bowl.

Spagnuolo is one of the top minds in the NFL, and should accelerate the turnaround. As they are saying around Washington this week: Smart is the new cool and youth is the new cool. Hires like Schwartz and Spagnuolo and McDaniels and Morris underscore that.

NBA: Magic keep rolling through the Western Conference, this time toppling the Nuggets.

Hot Stove: Phillies sign Hamels to 3Y/$20.5M deal. Seems like a bargain, given the money being thrown around at guys like Sabathia -- in the next year, Hamels will emerge as his superior.


Saw Slumdog Millionaire last night. I have seen all of 2 movies in the theaters in the last year (Slumdog and Dark Knight), but Slumdog was one of the Top 10 or 20 best movies I have ever seen. Really enjoyed it. Hope it wins a Best Picture Oscar.

-- D.S.