Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday 10/31 (Halloween) Quickie

There comes a moment in every parent's life when commitment to children conflicts with commitment to sports fandom. This is one of those days, as the Florida-Georgia game overlaps with the hour of trick-or-treating that will happen between 5 and 6 in my neighborhood. At least there will be a bag of my kids' candy for my gorging pleasure for the DVR-ed 2nd half. Anyway...

CFB Picks:
1 Florida over Georgia -- Big day for Tebow, I predict.
3 Texas over @ 14 Oklahoma St -- GOTW 1
4 Iowa over Indiana
10 Oregon over 5 USC -- GOTW 2
6 TCU over UNLV
7 Boise State over San Jose State
8 Cincinnati over @Syracuse
9 LSU over Tulane
11 Georgia Tech over @Vanderbilt
12 Penn St over @Northwestern
16 Utah over Wyoming
17 Ohio St over New Mexico St
18 Houston over Southern Miss -- Take the over!
19 Miami over @ Wake Forest
Tennessee over 22 South Carolina -- Upset Special
23 Notre Dame over Washington State
24 Cal over @ Arizona St
25 Ole Miss over @ Auburn

Other Games of Note:
Central Michigan over @ Boston College
NC State over @ Florida State
Wisconsin over Purdue
Nebraska over @ Baylor
Texas A&M over Iowa State
Duke over @ Virginia
Texas Tech over Kansas
Oklahoma over Kansas State

More on today's radar:

World Series Game 3: "Pivotal?" Not quite. But close.

West Virginia upset: Makes Cincy's win over South Florida a little more impressive, no?

Welcome, John Wall: Two-game suspension before being eligible? No problem.

NBA Wrap:
Mavs rout Lakers. Didn't see that coming...

Cavs win 1st of the season (you know it's a slow start when that's a big deal)...

Watched the Wiz-Hawks game last night with my brother-in-law, who is a huge Hawks fan; I'll still pick the Wiz to finish ahead of ATL in the East...

Jonny Flynn Rookie-of-the-Year Watch: 17 pts...

Damn, the Celtics look good (crushed the Bulls, although the Bulls were playing on back-to-back nights)...

The Thunder are 2-0, and Kevin Durant is through-2-games NBA MVP.

Great day of college football ahead. Enjoy it -- and if you're taking your kids out trick-or-treating, be sure to save some candy for yourself. If you're just staying home, acknowledge that there are parents behind those kids and spend the extra $5 for some decent candy options.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wright Thompson on Tim Tebow vs. Billy Cannon

Tim Tebow is the Billy Cannon of 2009. (Or maybe Billy Cannon was the Tim Tebow of 1959.) I went to the expert for an evaluation:

Wright Thompson is, in my opinion (and as I have said before), the best sportswriter in America today. That's why it is a thrill and honor for me that he sent me an exclusive post for me to use at The occasion? This weekend's 50th anniversary of Billy Cannon's famous punt-return TD vs. LSU -- Thompson has a typically terrific piece, about Cannon, on today. (Must-read!) I would normally point you to TimTeblog to see a post over there, but I'm so grateful and enthusiastic about having Thompson write something for me for that site, I am posting it here in full. Here you go:


It’s hard to imagine today’s players being old. I look at Tim Tebow and don’t much think about how he’ll handle the rest of his life, what demons he’ll face, where his journey will take him. We see these guys now, burning like a star, then they’re gone. Some show up on Sundays. Some have their names on car dealerships and insurance companies in college towns. But many just disappear. I don’t mean they’re forgotten. The legend never burns out. I mean the men themselves. They live in their own shadow. There is no way they could possibly better, or even live up to, that legend. Yet we are surprised when they don’t. Walking out of the Ole Miss game last weekend, I found myself next to a former star Rebel. Once, I’d owned a t-shirt with him on it. Now he was drunk and wobbly and I found myself wishing I’d never seen him again. But that’s not fair. There is life after they walk off the field for the final time. That’s why, while reporting the story of Billy Cannon, I found myself thinking of Tim Tebow.

It first hit me last year at the College Football Hall of Fame ceremony in New York. I stood in a suite in the Waldorf-Astoria and watched two young women ogle a picture of him as a young man. They stared at him and one of them said, “What a stud.”

I realized.

Cannon was the Tim Tebow of the 1950s.

Intense locker room speeches; Cannon wasn’t scared to grab a teammate by the jersey. Ridiculous plays. Rock star looks. Besieged in public. Unavailable therefore desired by women (Tebow because of his V Card; Cannon because he was married.) A commenter on the Cannon story just posted this: In his younger days he kind of looks like Tim Tebow.

There’s your thought as the 50th anniversary of Cannon’s Halloween Punt Return approaches. The way your grandparents feel about Cannon, one day you’ll feel about Tebow. I wonder where he’ll go between today and 2059. Maybe he’ll grow old gracefully. Maybe he’ll fall and never come back. Maybe he’ll fall and one day, as an old man, find peace and redemption.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at [wrightespn]-[at]-[gmail]-[dot]-[com].

This Week In Tebow at

I may not write a more profound tweet than this:

What does "hyper-topical" journalism mean? It means reporting that Lil Wayne's rhyme with "Tim Tebow" is "Grim Reflow."

What a great way to end the week -- The Week in Tebow. If you're not making it over to every day (you're not?!), here are the highlights:

*Tim Tebow and Lil Wayne: The Lost Lyrics

*Tim Tebow vs. Herschel Walker: Qualitative | Quantitative

*Is Tim Tebow having any fun this season? (And shouldn't that matter?)

*More on the misconception about Tim Tebow's religious enthusiasm.

*Struggle? What strugge? Tebow and Co. CAN go 14-0 on just "good enough."

*Is Tebow out of the Heisman race? For now, yes. But not for good.

*What do Florida's troubles in the red zone portend? Less Tebow, more RBs.

*Yahoo Bonus: Why last Saturday night was the low point of Tim Tebow's career.

Your key Tebow storylines for the Cocktail Party:

*Red-zone: Will they leave the ball in Tebow's hands? Will he go under center? Will the Gators score TDs?

*History: With one more rushing TD, Tebow passes Herschel as the SEC's career leader.

*Heis-mentum (ugh): I'm predicting a big game for Tebow and Florida's offense. If so, he is back in the Heisman discussion -- despite the issues, he's STILL in the Top 5, even this week.

*Halloween: Mrs. Quickie and I are taking our 3-year-old and 1-year-old trick-or-treating from 5-6 p.m. Yes, that is right in the middle of the game. Don't text, don't call: It's all on DVR.

-- D.S.

Slate's Jack Shafer Likes My Politico/Steinberg Idea

Slate's Jack Shafer agrees with my thinking about how Politico should embrace sports -- right down to hiring Dan Steinberg. Love that. One's an opinion... two's a meme! Great minds...

-- D.S.

Friday 10/30 Quickie: Booing Favre,
Burnett, Texas, Oregon, Melo, Kansas

It seems entirely appropriate that on Halloween weekend, the operative word is "Boo!" in Green Bay, where only the most repressed people in town won't want to boo Brett Favre's return.

That's the argument I make in today's SN column: Booing Favre isn't bad sportsmanship -- it's cathartic. It's an exorcism -- OK, that's my last Halloween-related metaphor -- for the demons (ugh) represented by Favre's betrayal.

Boo him vociferously this weekend, then finally let it go. (It would help immensely if the Packers beat the Vikings, too.)

Yankees even it up: But I'm not sold that the momentum is back in New York's favor. Winning Game 2 was a MUST, not a luxury -- they still gave up home-field advantage; they need to split this weekend to flip the script. If they exit the weekend down 3-1 -- with another game to play in Philly -- the series is over.

(By the way: Kudos to AJ Burnett. It was the biggest start of his career -- by far -- and he killed it.)

College Football Weekend: Two huge games -- Texas at OK St and USC at Oregon. Here's my question: Why are both on at 8 p.m.? I don't want to have to choose. (Isn't it conflicting enough that the Florida-Georgia game is at the same time I'm taking my kids trick-or-treating?) Picks coming later.

NFL Week 8 Storylines: Personally, I love the Rams-Lions dynamic, but I appreciate that Sunday may be the single most interesting day in recent Philly sports history. Oh, and Alex Smith: How can you not be intrigued?

(And I don't just say that because Smith is Urban Meyer's 2nd-favorite player ever behind Tim Tebow. But Meyer is right: His QBs success in the pros is entirely dependent on being in the right system -- the 49ers open it up, playing from behind, and all of a sudden Smith looks like a world-beater. If they go back to the old traditional grind, he won't do well. What does SF have to lose by opening it up? They ain't making the playoffs in the I-formation.)

NBA Last Night: It's only been one game, but I would count that as a signature win for the Bulls over a contender like the Spurs. (Always have to discount teams playing on back-to-back nights.) Also: The Cavs REALLY need Stephen Jackson.

CBB Top 25: Kansas is No. 1. It's hard to disagree, although you all know are well aware that I think Kentucky will win the national title this year. I'm also high on Villanova, but that might just be because I'm a sucker for Final Four experience.

Lots more where that came from, including a tribute to Walter Payton and some advice for your weekend that doesn't have to do with Halloween. (Remember the old Quickie "Big 5" each Halloween about the Top 5 Halloween candy? Still have to go with mini-Twix as the gold standard.)

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love: NBA Play-In Playoff Tourney

Wow, do I love this idea. One unintended consequence: I could go 0-82, but simply structure my team to win three straight games in mid-April to earn that 8th spot. More realistically, if I knew I wasn't a Top 7 playoff contender, I would probably sit my stars mid-season if they were even remotely not fully healthy, saving them for the play-in. But that's quibbling -- and not even a bad outcome. Love this.

-- D.S.

Politico's Dan Steinberg Factor in D.C.

It's no secret that the successful politics web-print hybrid start-up Politico has modeled itself after ESPN, at least in its hyper-intense coverage planning. (And Mike Allen's Playbook -- like the Daily Quickie!! Better? Yeah: Better. No! Different! Equally good!)

Here's another page from the ESPN playbook:

In the same way that ESPN has gone into local markets -- successfully -- Politico announced that it is going "local," by launching coverage of the DC metro area.

(Let's call it right now: When ESPN launches -- and how could they not? -- they will partner with Politico, in the same way ESPNChicago partnered with Huffington Post.)

Anyway, Politico has hired a smart guy named Jim Brady to run the DC spin-off -- he's a good fit, having formerly been the executive editor of

That's why Brady -- of all people -- should know what his very first editorial hire should be:

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, who has set the gold standard among newspaper sports bloggers with his essential "DC Sports Bog."

It's not just that Steinberg has been the gold standard for newspaper sports blogging -- or any reported sports blogging, newspaper or otherwise. It's that Steinz has actually raised his game -- as recently as this week!

His reporting from the Redskins' anti-fan debacle on Monday night was gripping reading -- through his reporting, he exclusively crystallized the moment when "Snyder has lost the fans" went national. (He continued the excellent reporting yesterday.)

Politico is no stranger to Washington Post talent -- it was founded by Washington Post political talent, Harris and VandeHei, and there is no bigger talent -- or star, frankly -- in DC sports coverage than Dan Steinberg.

And so before Jim Brady makes that call to Tony Kornheiser -- and he absolutely should -- he should recruit Dan Steinberg as the hub of his sports coverage. Pay whatever he needs to pay. Entice him by leveraging Politico's expertise in turning their reporters into multi-platform stars.

DC gets a lot of crap as a carpet-baggish sports town -- but, next to national politics, the Redskins are the biggest story in town. (See the quixotic but admirable network of Redskins bloggers set up by that Washington Examiner guy last week.)

No one covers the Redskins more interestingly than Steinberg.

Politico proper has the politics covered. If Brady wants to make a splash with his DC metro coverage, it starts with the Redskins -- and it starts with Dan Steinberg as the cornerstone.

(And, by the way: If you're the Post? You have arguably the best and most innovative sports section in the country, particularly online. I would recognize that Steinberg is the most valuable asset of the section -- yes, even more than Wilbon or Wise or the myriad Skins beat reporters. Lock him up... before Politico does. He would be harder to replace than anyone on the staff.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 10/29 Quickie: Lee, A-Rod,
Pedro, Cavs, Flynn, LJ, Mocks, Herschel

Ahh, there's nothing like the sweet, sweet smell of panic in the morning. Should Yankees fans panic?

Unfortunately, not really.

Oh, they can't beat Cliff Lee -- hell, per this morning's SN column, they turned him into the hybrid of Josh Beckett 2003 and Don Newcombe 1949... in the process giving Lee that kind of immortality only astonishing World Series performances can provide -- but let's be realistic:

Even if AJ Burnett has never made a start as big as this before -- with his most recent "biggest start ever" being the dud in the ALCS -- he's going against Pedro, who is not particularly good in fall weather. (Not that I wouldn't like to see him defy that with an epic performance.)

And the deeper the Phillies go into their rotation, the more likely the Yankees won't look like fools -- I'm talking about A-Rod and Tex, who were owned last night by Lee.

If I was a Yankees fan, I'd be saying to myself: "We just got beat by a guy who pitched one of the all-time great World Series games in history. Happens. What are you going to do?"

It makes the Series infinitely more interesting to have it start this way.

More you'll find in today's column:

*But, yes: It IS time for Cavs fans to panic.

*Jonny Flynn! DeJuan Blair!

*Why is Dez Bryant waffling about turning pro?

*Josh Freeman to Dez Bryant: Sound appealing?

*The best that Pac-10 hoops can do is... Washington at No. 13?

*TCU-Cincy: NOT a bad BCS title-game match-up!

*Tim Tebow vs. Herschel Walker: Who ya got?

Check out the whole thing here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday 10/28 Quickie: Yankees,
Celtics, Arenas, Agassi, Bryant, More

There are two equally interesting outcomes to this year's World Series:

(1) Yankees win. Restoration of Yankees' glory... blah blah blah... Although I would argue that this year's Yankees team was under more pressure to win a W.S. championship than any team in history. World Series titles to bookend the decade. How fitting.

(2) Yankees lose. Even more epic. Failure, on the biggest stage -- and, per the above sentiment, under conditions where failure simply is not an option. Schadenfreude run wild! Oh, and the Phillies repeat as champs, making them the best team of the decade.

As you'll see in today's SN column, I am picking the Yankees to win -- I am rooting for the Phillies to win. It's not a hedge if you really don't care about the outcome. I would be thrilled for my "opinion" to be wrong.

Meanwhile, a friend who is a Mets fan said that the only solace Mets fans could take from seeing their two biggest rivals playing for the World Series is that the weather in NYC sucks, and hopefully Yankees fans are nominally miserable while sitting through it. Doubt it.

More in today's column:

I go fairly crazy on last night's 4 NBA season-openers. I do NOT plan on doing that for every game for every night this season. But there were four fairly interesting storylines:

*Celtics beat the Cavs -- the result itself is less meaningful than the hint that the addition of Shaq and Anthony Parker (and Jamario Moon) ain't enough to get the Cavs past the Celtics (who themselves added Rasheed and Marquis Daniels, who both were effective as subs).

*Lakers get their rings -- I picked the Lakers to repeat, and it will depend not on Kobe, but on the supporting cast. Bynum was terrific. Odom picked up from his best performances from last year. And Ron Artest's superficial stats weren't great, but his plus-minus led the team.

*How 'bout my Wiz! Gilbert Arenas had his best game in I-really-can't-remember-how-long. And, even without Jamison, the Wiz offense was very effective. Caron Butler was the 4th-leading scorer. I have no faith, however, that Andray Blatche will be consistent. Foye, however...

*OK, so I may have been drinking too much Morey Kool-Aid when I picked the Rockets to make the playoffs in the West. But it's not like the Blazers are chumps -- they are arguably a Top 4 team in the West. And, hey: Greg Oden gave a preview of the rest of his NBA career -- lots of rebounds, lots of blocks, zero offense. He's basically a bigger, vastly more expensive version of Chris Andersen.

Even more you'll find:

*Dez Bryant or not: OK State isn't beating Texas in Stillwater this weekend.

*Is Butler the best mid-major team in college hoops?

*A slew of non-SN must-reads, including Dan Steinberg's tremendous reporting from FedEx Field on Monday night.

*Andre Agassi was a meth-head? Did NOT see that coming.

BLOGPOLL UPDATE: Thanks for your feedback -- as a result, I moved Penn State up a few notches... and dropped Houston down. (Hmm: Would Houston beat Penn State on a neutral field in standard fall weather? The answer is: Yes.) Updated poll here.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Re: Parents, Children and Baseball

Despite last week's interesting discussion of whether you'd let your kid play football -- and let's hope the answer is a resounding "no," instead focusing your selfish projection on turning your kid into a football FAN -- I have been delinquent in keeping up with all things Varsity Dad.

But I wanted to pass along this item from Will Leitch, whose new book is about fathers, sons and baseball -- and he wants you to be a part of it.

And so whether you have a great story about interacting with your kids about baseball -- or a great story about interacting with your own parent (let's not restrict by gender) about baseball, Will wants to hear it.

(Tell him Shanoff sent you -- not that it will help... actually it'll probably hurt! But nevertheless...)

Great idea for a sidebar to the book. Can't wait to finally see it.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 10/27 Quickie: NBA 2009-2010,
DeSean, Haynesworth, World Series, Griffin

The NBA season starts tonight, and it's a good day to lead today's SN column with my NBA preview. It starts with a theory that should be familiar: "The Two NBAs," which I first fleshed out here a few months ago. Still, I've refined it to fit an even shorter space.

Then there are my picks:

*Lakers over Magic to win the NBA title (which means, by inference, that I pick the Magic to out-do the Cavs this season -- the Cavs being the prohibitive favorite in the East).

*Dwight Howard as MVP -- I think that LeBron will run into the "Jordan Wall"; obviously, LeBron is the NBA's best player -- as he will be for the next 10 years. MVP voters will want novelty.

*Jonny Flynn as Rookie of the Year -- I had this tabbed on draft night. It looks even better now that Blake Griffin's knee has sidelined him for the next six weeks (or longer -- it's the Clippers... who knows?)

*I'm obviously partial to my Wiz -- who will be a Top 4 team in the East if they can stay healthy. If the preseason injury to Antawn Jamison -- who might be the most underrated, undervalued stud in the league -- is any indication, staying healthy will be its usual stretch for them.

(I also lament the silence from Gilbert Arenas -- absolutely, one of the reasons he became my favorite player in the NBA was because he was different. Quiet Gilbert is just a former superstar trying to come back from a pretty nasty injury history. But I still love him.)

There's a ton more in the column, including how Albert Haynesworth upstaged DeSean Jackson last night in the MNF game. Check it all out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Low Point of Tim Tebow's Career

The lowest point of Tim Tebow's career came Saturday night. And it had nothing to do with a pick-6 (or even two of them) or how Florida's offense is working in the red zone. It came after the game, when Tebow wouldn't talk to the media about how things went. My latest Tebow-related column for Yahoo's Dr. Saturday gives it a name: The Bizarro Promise.

-- D.S.

More on Bill Simmons: The Stern of Sports?

When I wrote my post last week on Bill Simmons' future, it was a bit of good timing that Jeff Jarvis would, the next day, write something similar about Howard Stern. Worth a read -- plug in "Simmons" for "Stern" and get an even better idea about the opportunities open to Bill.

Disclosure: Jarvis has been good enough to let me help out with his "Entrepreneurial Journalism" course this semester at City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.

Monday 10/26 Quickie: Yankees, Giants, BCS, Saints, Redskins, Celtics, More

Particularly loaded SN column this morning:

*The Yankees better not be satisfied. The stat isn't "back in World Series for first time since 2003" (look how THAT turned out); it better be "World Series champs for first time since 2000."

*From the "just when you think you have the NFL figured out" file, there's the Cards beating the Giants in NY -- with defense, of all things.

*From the "so obvious it was 'when' not 'if'" file, there's Brett Favre's rally-killing pick-6 yesterday against the Steelers. (To be fair: Wasn't a classic Favre sling-the-ball-downfield pick.)

*It's just the Saints' year.

*Did anyone -- and I mean anyone in the country -- start Alex Smith as their fantasy QB? No? OK: Your proxy is if you started Vernon Davis.

*BCS: As someone who is on the TCU bandwagon -- see my BlogPoll ballot directly below -- I am thrilled they vaulted Boise State and are now in position to claim the non-BCS team's BCS spot.

*Is Florida the best team in the country? No. (I count 3 teams ahead of them.) But Florida DOES have the best defense in the country, and the special teams are still spectacular. That should be enough to make up for the fact that the offense has stalled out.

*If you had to fill out a Top 3 Heisman ballot today, who would you put? I'm having trouble with it, but I'll say TCU DE Jerry Hughes, Texas QB Colt McCoy and... oh... I'll pass on No. 3. (But Tebow ain't out of it -- see the rebound McCoy makes between last week and this week.)

*SN's NBA Countdown reaches No. 3, and it's the Celtics -- I scoff. Even if KG is healthy, who's going to guard Dwight Howard again? More than that: Who's going to guard Rashard Lewis? (Rasheed Wallace? Ha! Sure.)

*If Duke is being picked to be the ACC co-champ, the ACC is going to have a terrible season.

There's a ton more. Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: TCU!

This week's BlogPoll Top 25 ballot. I teased it last night on Twitter, then this morning in the Quickie post: TCU is, in my opinion, the No. 1 team in the country. Cincinnati is No. 2. Everyone else has to add caveats as to why they are ranked as high as they are. Your comments welcome.

1 TCU 4
2 Cincinnati 2
3 Texas
4 Florida 2
5 Alabama 4
6 Iowa 2
7 Houston 6
8 Boise State 2
9 Oregon 2
10 Southern Cal 1
11 LSU 1
12 Georgia Tech 1
13 Utah 6
14 Oklahoma State 2
15 Penn State 1
16 Virginia Tech 1
17 Miami (Florida) 7
18 Pittsburgh 3
19 West Virginia 3
20 Ohio State 5
21 Arizona 1
22 Oklahoma
23 Central Michigan
24 South Carolina
25 Mississippi
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Brigham Young (#15), Texas Tech (#18).

Sunday 10/25 (Very-ish) Quickie

Well, THAT was the worst game Tim Tebow has ever played. (You can read more about that here, naturally.)

But let's put it into context: Florida still won decisively -- notwithstanding the Pick-6 that shouldn't have happened (Florida's) and the TWO Mississippi State Pick-6s that ruined Tebow's night. Florida's defense is the best in the country, and no matter how baffling the Gators' offense is, that defense (and special teams) will always have them in the game.

Here's more context: That same Florida team maligned for beating Tennessee by "only" 23-13 looks like an offensive juggernaut compared to Alabama's performance against the Vols, which was only saved by Bama's special teams and Lane Kiffin's stupid decision not to try to get his kicker a few more yards with 48 seconds to go.

This is the upshot, on a national level: Putting the argument for "SEC exceptionalism" aside, neither Florida nor Alabama looked like a decisive national-title contender. Neither did USC. Neither did Iowa. Texas feasted on a mediocre Mizzou, but at least put on a show.

Who looked worthy? Cincinnati, which scored 41 points using the back-up QB. (Admittedly, they played atrocious Louisville.) And TCU, which obliterated BYU in Provo. This was the same BYU that out-played Oklahoma, which played Texas to a standstill.

So is it so crazy to argue that the best team in Texas -- arguably the best team in the country -- is TCU? Is it so crazy to argue that, on a neutral field, Cincinnati could beat either Florida or Alabama -- in the same way offensively innovative Utah beat Alabama on a neutral field a year ago (more decisively than Florida beat Alabama just a few weeks earlier)?

It's not, actually. And I would argue that the top two teams in the country -- right now -- ARE Cincinnati and TCU... and that the only reason Florida, Alabama, Texas, Iowa, USC -- and even Boise State -- will lead the new BCS ranking is because of pollster bias and inertia.

(TCU's win only underscored that they are better than Boise State, which feasted on yet another WAC patsy. I would argue that TCU beating BYU in Provo halfway through the season is more impressive than Boise beating Oregon in Boise in the first week of the season.)

The arguments will continue. But I think that the thing we can all agree on is that neither Florida nor Alabama looked like a No. 1 team. The best team in the country IS in Texas -- but not Austin.

-- D.S.