Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday 04/18 (Very) Quickie

Figuring out how to bide a few hours until the Florida spring football game -- watching it online, because it's not on TV this year (ESPN is showing Alabama's spring game).

*I was babysitting my kids last night with nothing left on my DVR and no good movies on-demand, so I started watching some of the endless pre-draft coverage that happened to be on last night, which I had largely been able to avoid. And -- you know what? -- I suddenly got SO damn excited. I was already pretty engaged for next Saturday, but I'm locked in now.

*I'm down on the NBA playoffs this year -- where's the drama if we know that it'll be Lakers-Cavs in the Finals? I also loathe the NBA playoff pacing, where it takes 10 days to play 4 games.

But today has some intrigue, starting with Bulls-Celtics at the top of the afternoon -- how will Boston look in their first playoff game without KG? Can the Bulls steal one? Then comes LeBron -- statement game?

I'm less intrigued by the West double-header afterward, although I do find Blazers-Rockets to be interesting, if only because it matches two of the Top 3 GMs in the league (Pritchard and Morey, with Presti being the 3rd). The Blazers are on the way up; the Rockets are built to win now. One of these teams advances and sees their season/architecture validated. I picked the Blazers (winning a 7-game toss-up because they have HCA), but I'm rooting for the Rockets, if only because I'm a huge fan of Daryl Morey. OK, maybe I am sort of intrigued.

*Eagles make a strong move: Getting LT Jason Peters from the Bills was a steal.

*Sheffield: 500 HR. Still doesn't make him a Hall of Famer.

*Fantasy Stud: Jason Kubel!

*NFL changes Jets game before Yom Kippur to accommodate Jewish fans: The league probably should have known it was an issue beforehand. You almost never see it come up as a problem.

*Florida hoops losing starting center: Alex Tyus transferring. Along with Calathes likely staying in the NBA Draft and a perimeter-oriented recruiting class, Billy D has a personnel problem.

Excuse me while I forget about the Florida basketball problems while I squint at my laptop screen at flickering images of Tim Tebow's new-and-improved throwing mechanics.

-- D.S.

Friday, April 17, 2009

John Madden: All-Time MVP of NFL

Al Michaels called John Madden the "most important person in NFL history."

He may have read my SN column this morning, channeling superlatives and instant history:
Why is Madden irreplaceable? Because he was the most important and influential sports media figure ever.

With his accessible and enthusiastic commentary, he redefined the "analyst" position (at a time when the NFL was skyrocketing in popularity and exposure through TV, which lasted from the pre-cable, concentrated-audience days of the 80s to the cable explosion of the 90s and the online explosion of the 00s).

After redefining game analysis, he transcended it. First, as a near-ubiquitous TV pitchman for everything from beer to hardware stores. Then, in the greatest achievement of his career, as a video-game icon for multiple generations of fans -- none of whom ever knew him as an actual coach.

There are plenty of big personalities in sports media. Madden was the biggest -- and most successful.
In addition to being the most important/influential person in sports media history, Madden qualifies as being on the short-list in the debate over the most important person in NFL history. (Logistically, you could say Pete Rozelle was most important, but -- screw it -- Rozelle never had a video game.)

-- D.S.

ESPNDB: Wikipedia for Sports or World-Class Almanac?

ESPNDB -- ESPN's answer to Wikipedia -- has been in the works for a while and is launching imminently. It's a very good idea, if only because this is a knowledge-driven service to fans that ESPN can and should own. Oh, and Wikipedia has proven that fans LOVE this stuff.

Will sports fans trust it more than Wikipedia? The products do different things -- ESPNDB sounds like it will be driven by professional content; Wikipedia is driven by crowd-sourced expertise and enthusiasm for getting the information correct.

In that, ESPNDB has an edge on "authority"; the question is whether it has an edge on "authenticity" -- or comprehensiveness. Would ESPNDB update with Matt Stafford's bio within minutes of his being drafted next week? I guarantee you it will on Wikipedia.

I would advise two things as ESPNDB gets off the ground -- and it sounds like they have big plans for it and the initial version isn't the final version:

(1) Make it as open as possible. I appreciate that professional content is the competitive differentiator that ESPN brings, but don't underestimate the power of passionate fans not only WANTING to help, but providing extremely valuable research. Otherwise, it's just a static almanac.

(2) SEO. SEO. SEO. Yes, ESPNDB can and will have a valuable place accompanying article pages on But my default for sports research is Google. And Wikipedia rules because when I type in "Matt Stafford" into Google, Wikipedia's entry pops up first -- directly ahead of's "player card" page.

But with the right user experience -- including involving the users --'s player page (with a healthy complement of ESPNDB information) could become the preferred click for fans.

Like ESPN's move into local online media with this week's launch of, ESPNDB is not blazing new ground, but fast-following in a way that ESPN can own.

-- D.S.

Friday 04/17 A.M. Quickie:
Celtics, NBA Playoff Picks, Marlins, Sanchez

The Celtics "era" is over. It was probably over the minute the Cavs emerged with home-court advantage in the East. Without Kevin Garnett, it's a done-deal.

In today's SN column, I lay out my NBA playoff picks -- we can argue about whether the Lakers or the Cavs should be the favorite. I think we all can agree the champ won't be Boston.

We can also agree that this is the least dramatic NBA Playoffs in recent memory -- for a league that is widely lauded as going through some kind of Renaissance, the Playoffs are sizing up as worse than lame... they are predictable.

Like the Lakers are losing in the West? (The only drama: Can a up-and-comer like the Blazers showcase promise by getting out of Round 1 and taking the Lakers more than 4 games?)

Like the Cavs are losing in the East? (The only drama: When -- not if -- the Celtics will be bounced out. And how close can the Magic -- my preseason pick to win the East! -- come?)

I'm not even convinced LeBron will give Kobe a match in the Finals. (I have the Lakers winning in 5.)

The Playoff mantra should be "Where Predictability Happens."

More you'll find in today's column:
*The Marlins are the new Rays!
*The Yankees' crappy season continues!
*Mark Sanchez: 2010 No. 1 pick at 2009 prices!
*Spring Games: Florida vs. Alabama!
*And More!

Complete column here
. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday 04/16 A.M. Quickie:
Madden, LeBron, MJD, Kinsler, More

UPDATE: So John Madden retiring happened. I prefer Collinsworth, and I wonder what this will do to Madden's much more important brand -- his video-game brand.

Today's SN column leads with proclaiming LeBron as NBA MVP and admitting that I actually thought about the argument that him winning a title this year is BAD for Cavs fans, because it would almost certainly allow him to leave the city in 2010 with a clean conscience.

That idea, of course, is totally ludicrous -- I call myself out for even thinking it. LeBron needs to win now because -- frankly -- this may be his best chance. I mean ever.

More you'll find:
*My quasi-Jags fandom cheers the MJD extension.
*Ian Kinsler rules: Just as Jewish as Youkilis but not a Red Sox player!
*Who is the preseason All-American QB? Tebow? No: Paulus!
*Tons more.

Complete column here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Club: David Kinney "The Big One"

AJ beat me to high praise for this new book by David Kinney -- "The Big One."

It's a terrific book and a great story -- frankly, I'm a much bigger fan of sports books that aren't necessarily about your typical mainstream sports. Good storytelling is good storytelling, and I think the best thing I could say is this:

Everyone should read one book about fishing as sports competition. This is that book. (Excerpt here, via Deadspin)

-- D.S.

An April 15 Tribute to Jackie Robinson

I'm thinking about today's annual Jackie Robinson tribute across MLB, among my favorite annual traditions -- not just in baseball, but in any sport.

I know how MLB and the players will honor Robinson's memory -- everyone (or many) will wear No. 42.

How could fans show their appreciation and admiration? I have an idea, although it would have been quite a challenge for the database engineers:

I would have liked for everyone playing fantasy baseball to be able to pick up "Jackie Robinson" to replace one starter in their lineup today.

If everyone did it, it would be (a) a good tribute and (b) a bit of a strategic challenge, to figure out which of your starters to replace.

At the very least, we could all have our own tribute to Jackie Robinson -- by far the most important sports figure in American sports history.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 04/15 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Schedule, Paulus, NHL Playoffs, Taxes

Some hockey fans might see it as a slight that I didn't preview the NHL playoffs in today's SN column. Quite the contrary: Take it as a sign of respect that I didn't want to diminish your sport by attempting to be profound in any way about the results -- beyond my affection for Ovechkin.

Instead, I am somewhat obsessed with the latest turn in the best story of the week: Greg Paulus' future in football. Even better than him working out for the Packers (there is no WAY he is getting drafted) is the rumor that he could transfer to Michigan and play QB for Rich Rodriguez. I love that idea. In fact, it totally reinvents Paulus from "Duke uber-punk" to "the next Pat White."

Meanwhile, there's lots to say about the release of the NFL schedule -- I personally like the idea of projecting the entire season based on a list of dates and opponents in mid-April. Yes, the experts can TOTALLY see things coming like the Dolphins or Falcons a year ago, just from the schedule release. Among the few things this is good for -- beyond extending the offseason hype for the NFL, which is not a bad thing -- is to see who gets the marquee primetime slots. Oh, and to see that the Steelers have a very favorable schedule, particularly for a defending champ.

NBA Playoffs: I find it amusing that anyone bothers to care how the seeding in the West shakes out today. Like the Lakers are going to lose to anyone in the West?

Plus: Why John Wall should skip college. More on that later.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NFL Draft Prep: Don't Draft Percy Harvin?

I love Cold Hard Football Facts -- even if they eviscerate the history of Florida WRs who have been drafted.

The stats don't lie, although I think Percy Harvin is a better WR -- and better all-around player (returner, Wildcat specialist) -- than the players who have come before him. If anything, the concern with Percy is his health -- not his skills.

(BTW: Here's another must-read from CHFF about the NFL schedule being released by the NFL on the NFL Network tonight.)

-- D.S. launched yesterday. As a business and programming idea, I think it's very smart -- the Chicago Tribune announced it is cutting 20 percent of its newsroom; the Sun-Times is bleeding sports columnists out of every orifice; sites everywhere (Huffington Post) are going local.

What's interesting is that there is plenty of room for growth: Why wouldn't SBNation aggregate its Chicago blogs into a Chicago-focused destination? Or partner up with SI or Fox or CBS? Or, at the very least, partner with the Trib's own to expand its coverage? Because if the newspaper companies don't do something, they're going to lose one of the few things that they should do better than anyone else -- local sports (the other is crime news).

There are a couple of indie local team blogs still in play (Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Northwestern, Notre Dame) -- the smart local plays will cut inbound and outbound distribution deals with them immediately.

By the way: There is no reason this can't scale to every major sports city, and quickly. And it's not a bad thing -- not at all. Local papers can partner with the national brands, and local indie voices (such as bloggers) can gain exposure while adding a ton of editorial value.

This is what you would call a logical -- but still disruptive -- product extension for ESPN.

-- D.S.

Getting Tweens To Care About Sports

This article was about programming entertainment TV for tween guys, but if you run a sports league or a sports team or a sports-media product, it's a must-read. Huge implications.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 04/14 A.M. Quickie:
Kalas, Cavs, Citi, Lions, Grienke, More

Is it too early to coronate the Cavs as NBA champs, simply because they just earned home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs, including the Finals?

Maybe. After all, the Cavs only lost once at home this season -- and it was to the Lakers, the odds-on favorite to meet them in the Finals. If the Cavs give up HCA, all bets are off.

But in terms of winning the East, I cannot see the Celtics beating the Cavs in Cleveland. Maybe the C's win all 3 games in Boston, but they're not going to win on the road.

(Yeah, yeah: I lean too heavily on last year's first-round mess vs. Atlanta and discount that the Celtics actually did break serve at Detroit and at LA.)

The Cavs may have lost only one game at home all season, but -- then again -- all it takes is one home loss in the playoffs to shift the balance just enough to change the outcome of a series.


*RIP, Harry Kalas
*RIP, Bird Fidrych
*300 HR Club!
*Excuse to mention Florida football!
*And a lot more.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday 04/13 A.M. Quickie:
Masters, Tiger, Cavs, 55, Draft, More

OK, so the Masters was kind of interesting -- even without Tiger at the top. Still: Not quite the event it would have been had Tiger won.

The big point was in today's SN column: You'll get folks who will argue that the Tiger-free Masters finish was great for the game; I'll maintain that nothing beats Tiger. Except Angel, I guess.

Meanwhile, more you'll find in today's column:

*The Celtics aren't beating the Cavs in the playoffs. No chance.

*The Cubs stake their claim on the NL Central.

*My fantasy baseball season continues to produce in an inverse ratio to my NCAA bracket: I drafted Josh Johnson, who -- for now -- looks amazing.

*Which was more impressive: Dwyane Wade's career-best double-nickel (does every superstar get a chance to devour the Knicks?) or Chris Paul's 31-17-9 on national TV?

*If it's less than two weeks til the NFL Draft, that means the obfuscation ramps up -- say, Shonn Greene's "work habits" issues.

*Ed Davis back at UNC next year -- he should have a huge year, especially with all those good freshmen behind him.

There's a lot more. I'll leave you with the idea that anyone who can pull off a cowboy hat and a pink T-shirt at Augusta National deserves our admiration.

Complete column here.

-- D.S.