Saturday, December 05, 2009

Championship or Failure: It Is Failure

Congratulations to Alabama and its fans.

That was the most comprehensively impressive performance I have ever seen a great team play against another great team -- most impressive because Alabama made a great Florida team look... ordinary.

The Tide dominated on both sides of the ball, like I've never seen a team dominate Florida in the Tebow Era.

Again, because they deserve the credit: I've never seen a defense dominate Florida as thoroughly as Alabama did; I've never seen an offense dominate Florida as thoroughly as Alabama did.

Florida's defense was as good as I've seen this decade in college football -- Alabama destroyed them. And while Florida's offense has been up and down, Alabama neutered it.

I'm stunned, but sort of not really. When you watch your team get dismantled -- or, alternatively, you watch a team dismantle another -- so thoroughly, it's actually easier to take the loss than if it's close or you think your losing team out-played the winning team.

But that's not to imply that I am "taking" the loss. I am shell-shocked. The feeling of devastation will probably hit me tomorrow.

The downside of the "championship or failure" stakes is -- as you saw on Tim Tebow's face after the game -- that there is no margin for error.

In the same way that nothing would compare to a championship, nothing compares to the feeling of failure.

Again, congrats to Alabama fans. They should enjoy it. That was a hell of a performance, and I will be shocked if they don't roll -- no pun intended -- to the national title.

-- D.S.

Saturday 12/05 (SEC) Quickie

Countdown to the SEC Championship Game at 4. Here's how I see it:

Florida's defense -- even without Carlos Dunlap -- is better than the defense that held Alabama to 20 points a year ago.

Florida's offense -- even with its issues this year -- is better than the offense that put up 31 points on Alabama a year ago.

(Consider: Percy Harvin wasn't available a year ago. Louis Murphy is gone, but Riley Cooper is every bit the money WR. Aaron Hernandez is better than a year ago. Demps is better than a year ago. Moody wasn't a factor a year ago. Rainey wasn't available a year ago. The O-line isn't quite as good as a year ago, but the returning players from last year are better.)

All season long, I have been basing my Florida picks on their best-of-the-decade D. While the absence of Carlos Dunlap WILL hurt -- dammit -- he might be worth, say, 7 points (which, statistically, would actually be on the high end). I'm going to say that at full strength, Florida was going to hold Alabama to 10-15 points. Without Dunlap, they will hold them to 20-25.

And while Alabama's defense is very very good -- not as good as Florida's but certainly better than anyone else in the country (except, perhaps, TCU) -- there is no reason to think that Florida won't be able to score 20-30 points.

What does that point to? A very close game, even closer than last year. I'm going to say Florida 27, Alabama 20.

Regardless of outcome, you're going to want to check back here during and after the game for what will undoubtedly be some sort of emotional roller-coaster display by me.

More topics on the agenda today:

*Texas will beat Nebraska and make the BCS title game.

*That doesn't mean Texas is better than TCU.

*I'm presuming Cincy beats Pitt. But you never know.

*Nets win! Nets win! Nets win! (So did the Knicks! WTF is happening?!)

*Damn, what a shot by Kobe.

*Credit the Mariners for spending to get better: Chone Figgins

*What does that mean for the Angels' offseason planning?

*Notre Dame opting out of a bowl is a joke. What a bunch of losers.

*Move over Tebow: Dan LeFevour wants his own record -- all-time TD record for combined passing, rushing and receiving. Congrats, Tebow Lite!

Finally: The World Cup draw. I'm with everyone else -- The US got a favorable draw.

Here's the unintended consequence: The expectation now is clear -- get to the knock-out round or else. Or else what? Or else the US system is an utter failure and US Soccer's leadership should be dismantled.

I need to continue distracting myself until 4: GameDay at 10 from Atlanta (SEC love-fest), the UNC-Kentucky game (12:30-3), CBS pre-game show (3-4 pm).

Enjoy the game... sorry: The Game. I was pretty confident all week -- all season, actually. Now, I'm starting to get nervous. It's a good feeling, actually. This is where "Championship or Failure" expectations really kick in and create an emotional freak-out that makes it all worth it.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 04, 2009

How The BCS Can Boost Its P.R Spin Battle

Read the post below or find it at The Huffington Post.

The reputation of college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is so bad that the group finally went out and hired a PR firm to help. They recruited former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who runs a communications company with prominent sports clients.

But not before they debuted a new Twitter feed (@insidethebcs), which almost instantly became the mockery of the sports universe, and a new web site (, which makes health-care-reform astroturfing seem sophisticated in its messaging.

The BCS is so uniformly disliked by college football fans and media alike that it feels like the sports PR challenge of the decade -- even Mike Vick could say "I'm sorry" and move on.

Meanwhile, the BCS system is locked into place for years to come (with plenty of financial incentive and ESPN's marketing power behind it). However, that is the single-biggest advantage that the BCS has going for it: The system isn't changing.

So I guess I'm not quite sure why they felt the need to try actively to change its image or popular perception; no matter how the media might howl, fans will tune in en masse for the title-game, and they ultimately accept the result. Few beyond the most passionate opponents in the media (or directly screwed-over fans) remember BCS system debacles from years past.

Nevertheless, the BCS has decided to mount a p.r. offensive. They can certainly try, and I'm willing to stipulate to the effort.

My problem, then, is with their tactics.

As long as you're going to attempt to win a p.r. battle, they are going about it in all the wrong ways -- knee-jerk Twitter accounts, like they are checking the social-media box, and ridiculous fake Web sites.

Per Fleischer's expertise, they are erroneously trying to use political tactics to solve an apolitical problem. Sports fans are not like citizens engaged in a political battle... and the sports media and political media landscapes and levers couldn't be more different.

But that's not to say that there aren't tactics the BCS could try. I'm not guaranteeing anything except a greater chance of success than the current efforts.

And so as the college football regular season reaches its climax this weekend and the BCS system prepares to generate the title-game pairing, here are four suggestions I would make to Fleischer and the BCS to start the repositioning:

(1) Rebrand. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean something like AOL's rebrand du jour -- adding a punctuation mark at the end -- although "BCS?!" as the official brand would be winningly self-deprecating. But like AIG, "BCS" is tainted beyond repair, with no positive brand equity to salvage. They need a new name that tacks directly into the strongest position of their detractors: Call it "The Playoff."

(2) Don't be defensive. Stop trying to claim that the current system is ideal; it's just the system we have. Acknowledge the problems. But recognize that while critics may be noisy, they haven't actually affected any change. Most fans enjoy a good title-game pairing and, unless they are fans of a spurned team, largely overlook the side controversies that pock-mark the season.

(3) Co-opt the critics. Currently, the formula that determines the BCS (and the two teams that would play for the national title) comprises coaches, computer data-crunching and human "experts." All the inputs have their flaws, but one way to quiet the critics is to let them in the door: Leverage a new partnership with ESPN to import their experts and also incorporate the "BlogPoll," a weekly poll that includes 120 leading college football bloggers. (Disclosure: I am a voter in the BlogPoll.)

(4) Include the fans. By far, the most important solution. Give fans a stake in the process and their sense of ownership will overwhelm their minor irritation with teams that are left out. Embrace the openness, inclusion and empowerment that fans have come to demand through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Set up a simple, social registration system that lets any fan have a say. And make it a meaningful (25 percent) part of the formula.

Sorry, playoff fans: The BCS system of matching two teams for the national title, leaving plenty of other worthies out, is not going to change anytime soon. But what can be changed -- the name, the decision-making process, the involvement of the fans -- is not just powerful, but well within the power of the BCS to fix. The BCS was pillioried for its exclusivity. Its solution lies in inclusiveness.

-- D.S.

PS: The Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis has an interview with Fleischer and some analysis of his own. Well worth your time to read -- I'll give Curtis a ton of credit; he is openly anti-playoff, a rare position among media folks. And his arguments are well-articulated, even if I disagree with them.

Florida-Alabama: Biggest CFB Game Ever?

I made the argument in today's Sporting News column:

Is Florida-Alabama in the SEC title game the biggest regular-season game in the (modern) history of college football?

Let me crib from my arguments at SN:

*1 vs. 2

*12-0 vs. 12-0

*It's a playoff: Winner is in the national title game, loser is out.

*Not just that, but the winner will be the favorite in the national title game, like the NFC championship game in the 1980s and early 1990s.

*It's the best two coaches in college football.

*The featured match-up has the best 1-on-1 match-up of the season: The nation's best WR (Julio Jones) versus the nation's best CB (Joe Haden).

*Alabama is the most powerful college football brand in the South; Florida is the best program in the country and the reigning dynasty.

*It features the most celebrated college football player of all time, playing in the most pressure-packed game of his career.

Any ONE of those factors would make the game interesting. Any combination of 2 or 3 of them would make this the Game of the Year. But the things that make this game interesting just keep going and going and going....

(In fact, the only game I can think of that reminds me of it is the 2005 national title game between USC and Texas. But that was a national-title game. For a regular-season game -- or, technically, a conference-title game -- this game comes really close, in terms of pre-game storylines.

That's why it's the biggest regular-season game in the history of college football.

UPDATE: By POPULAR DEMAND -- yes, Ohio State-Michigan in 2006 had many of the same qualifications as this game. It's hard to remember the pre-game lead-up when your memory of the '06 Ohio State team is so defined by the pasting they took in the national title game.

As for the commenter talking about '66 (Mich St-ND), I will take your word for it -- let's qualify "modern" as "Post-ESPN Era," meaning: Since ESPN has been around (1979/80-ish).

-- D.S.

Friday 12/04 Quickie: World Cup Draw, Florida vs. Alabama, Vick, VY, Oregon

I will surprise you this morning in today's SN column.

I'll bet you would bet that I would lead with Florida-Alabama. I don't. Because that's not the biggest sports topic of the day.

The biggest sports topic of the day -- sorry: of the year -- is the World Cup draw, at noon today.

Oh, it might not be a particularly big deal in America, but when you consider the worldwide interest, that number dwarfs our provincial interests like college football or even the NFL.

Here's how I sum it up in the column: Millions and millions of people will tune in for Florida-Alabama. It will be one of the most-watched CFB games of the decade.

Billions and billions of people care about the World Cup draw, essentially a guy reaching into a hat and picking out names.

More people care about that than any US sports event this year -- and it's arguable that more people care about the draw than if you total up the fans who cared about all major US sports events this year... combined.

Not that US sports fans care. But still.

Meanwhile, yes, I devote "lead-item"-type room to the Florida-Alabama game, which I argue is the most compelling regular-season college football match-up in modern college football history. (More on that later.)

More in the column:
*Vick back in the ATL: Kind of a let-down!
*VY vs. Peyton: Who's taking the Titans?
*Oregon going to the Rose Bowl: LeGarrette!
*Tim Donaghy is the NBA story of the weekend.
*Is UNC-Kentucky the best CBB game of the year?
*I create some closure on Tiger. Really.

All the columnists and sports pundits who decried the attention we put on Tiger this week -- ignoring it's what fans wanted to talk/hear/read about -- missed the other fundamental shift in the media landscape besides the easy "It's TMZ's fault!" talking point they all cling to:

Sports scandals -- even huge ones -- have a half-life roughly equivalent to the level of heat they get on a place like TMZ. Sure, Tiger was under the spotlight for a week. But you can already see it fizzling out. Was the episode really so bad, so undermining of sports media? Hardly.

Check out the complete column here. I'll have a post on Florida-Alabama a little later. I believe I have a post on the BCS' p.r. troubles that will be published simultaneously on Huffington Post. Don't forget to check out yesterday's bonus post on what Comcast-NBCU means for online sports (below). And, as usual, there's a barrage of posts over at

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Comcast-NBC: Online Sports Juggernaut?

I had been sitting on an analysis of the sports-media potential of a Comcast merger with NBC-Universal for a month, until the deal looked sealed. The NYT's Richard Sandomir beat me to it, but I want to drill into it just a little bit.

Here's the top-line: The sports-media monster that comes from Comcast-NBCU has the potential to be the biggest alternative to ESPN in the history of sports media. Note how I avoid using "competitor," because I'm coming at this from a consumer/fan perspective: More choice is a good thing. No one will ever replace ESPN, but this might offer another comprehensive high-end option.

The fundamental thing Comcast-NBCU needs to do is -- like ESPN within Disney -- create one all-encompassing sports brand that will be the focal point for all sports on NBC, Versus, Golf Channel, Universal Sports, all the Comcast regional nets and across every media platform -- sorry, Versus, you're gone. Let's call it "NBC Sports Network" (NBCSN)

There are plenty of TV assets currently accessible to Comcast/NBCU to make NBCSN a compelling network, across multiple channels:

*NFL Sunday Night Football
*NFL Red Zone channel (!!!)
*Notre Dame football
*Grand Slam tennis finals
*US Open (USA)
*At least one golf major championship
*Mountain West college football
*Golf Channel
*Bull Riding, Cycling, MMA and other Versus sports
*The 76ers and Flyers (fwiw)
*Bob Costas
*Dan Patrick (via FNIA)
*Keith Olbermann (via FNIA and MSNBC)
*Peter King (via FNIA)
*10 regional sports TV networks in some of the biggest markets, all of which could feed a "mother" channel.

But they need more, a lot more: National studio programming, and lots of it. And not cheesy ones either. Take sports coverage as seriously as fans do. As Sandomir pointed out, they need a SportsCenter franchise. I'll go one better: They need a PTI-like franchise, too.

Then there are the TV assets that a cash-flow powerhouse like Comcast-NBCU could afford to buy, like the NCAA Tournament, more Olympics, NFL Thursday Night Football. And I'd cut a deal with the NBA and MLB networks to get access to cut in to any game they want.

(By the way, here's a memo to NBCU's new Comcast overlords: Now that you own MSNBC, try to recruit MSNBC's brilliant primetime programming honcho Bill Wolff -- an ESPN veteran, by the way -- to be your head of all programming for NBC Sports Network under Dick Ebersol.)

But I'm actually equally intrigued by the online sports powerhouse that could be created. Again, let's review the assets that the new company has access to right now:

*Pro Football Talk (via
*College Football Talk
*Darren Rovell (via CNBC)
*Alan Abrahamson (via NBC Olympics)
*Rick Chandler (Deadspin alum and new lead blogger)
*RotoWorld (via
*10 regional TV networks' online sites (getting huge investment for video and reported content)
*Access to all of the NBC Local online sports content talent (Drew Magary, Mike Tunison, Janie Campbell)
*The front-page firehose

And, again, with Comcast's cash flow powering it, here are the simple, logical and efficient moves that NBC Sports Network could combine with the existing assets to instantly turn it into a Top 2-3 site online, with massive growth potential in local media and social/mobile media:

*Acquire Citizen Sports, which instantly gives you a footprint in social media and mobile.
*Acquire SBNation, which exponentially boosts Comcast's local online efforts.
*Acquire Deadspin (and make Drew Magary and Tommy Craggs lead columnists)
*Give Bill Simmons $10 million to start his own sports-media venture, with 50 percent ownership by Comcast-NBCU

(And if they really wanted to move the needle, they would approach every single one of Yahoo's lead sport bloggers and offer to double their salaries -- with 5-year contracts -- to come over to the new NBC Sports Network site. Sorry, Mottram and Pesavento -- but you can come, too! Billions in cable fees go a long way.)

The idea of a new sports TV network gets all the headlines, because it involves a lot bigger dollars. But much more efficiently, the new company can massively expand its existing footprint online, bringing together all of these various (and valuable) assets -- along with a couple quick acquisitions -- to become a leader in emerging sports media, not just televised sports media.

-- D.S.

Yahoo-Tebow: Legacies Decided Now

This week's Tebow-themed guest-post over at Yahoo's Dr. Saturday makes something very clear:

For all the subplots over the last few months -- particularly last week's pep rally at The Swamp -- the expectations for Tim Tebow and Florida remain: National title or failure. And that includes three components: (1) 12-0 regular season. Done. (2) SEC title. This weekend. (3) BCS title-game win. A month from now.

And so we reach the SEC title game, and if Florida doesn't win -- yes -- Tim Tebow's legacy is nicked a bit. Oh, he will still be considered ONE OF the best college football players ever, but the argument for "best ever" will be diminished, if only slightly.

I turn to a recent historical analogy: Matt Leinart and Vince Young. When they played in the national-title game, two things happened: Vince Young put on a performance that was so good, he vaulted himself into the Pantheon of greatest college players ever (Doc Sat ranks him as the best player of the decade, although caveating that Tebow's career isn't over yet).

Matt Leinart COULD have been considered the greatest ever... if USC had won the game. It wasn't his fault -- USC's defense was mediocre and VY was spectacular. But it's not like he didn't lead USC to a ton of points on Texas' defense. But he didn't win the game, and any talk -- all talk -- of Leinart's place in history (regardless of what he did before) was eroded fundamentally.

(I go back another decade for one more historical analogy: Why is Tommie Frazier on the short list for greatest players/QBs of all time? Because of how ridiculously awesome he was in championship games, which is all anyone really remembers -- fairly or not.)

For all the individual accomplishment and accolades and for all of the off-field mythologizing, the essence of Tim Tebow is the winning. The MVP-ish role, off the bench, on the 2006 national title team. The 2008 title. The winning streak.

Winning trumps everything.

Read the whole column here.

-- D.S.

Thursday 12/03 Quickie: Tiger, Nets, Civil War, Toronto Bills, SEC Title Game

Another day, another development in the Tiger story. Sorry: It remains the No. 1 topic, sports or otherwise. Per today's SN column, I found his apology lacking. (But Jesper Parnevik's comments? Amazingly loaded.)

But there's a lot more to talk about:

*Oregon vs. Oregon State: For the Rose Bowl, for the Pac-10 title, for state bragging rights. It's a great rivalry, and they've never had a bigger game against each other. (And I pick...the Beavers!)

*Florida vs. Alabama: Lane Kiffin makes me laugh with his Meyer-bashing. I'm going to blow this out tomorrow. It remains the Game of the Year in college football.

*Heisman Watch: Head to for a deeper breakdown, but I remain convinced -- as I have since August -- that it's Colt McCoy's to lose. But Tebow is a lock as a finalist.

*Nets 0-18: You know how I feel about this -- if you're going to suck, suck prolifically...superlatively... like no other team has ever sucked. Congrats, Nets.

*AI to Sixers: Again, if you're not going to make the playoffs, at least be INTERESTING. And now the Sixers are. If they're coming to your town and you've never seen AI, you should go.

*Hey, the Big Ten finally beat the ACC! Thanks, Clemson! Your chokery has given the Big Ten something to brag about. (Anyone else enjoy the Duke schadenfreude?)

*I have always considered Bills fans to be among the best, not just in the NFL but all of sports. That makes your owner's willingness to ship off a home game to Toronto all the more pathetic. I know why he's doing it -- it makes business sense, and if he can create a second market for the team in Toronto, that's good for the team, ultimately. But it sucks for fans in the city.

Check out the complete column here. I've got two more posts coming today -- one about the Comcast-NBCU deal and one about the BCS' recent PR efforts. You don't want to miss either one.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wednesday 12/02 Quickie: Tiger, Bowden, Dunlap, Notre Dame, AI, Big Ben, More

Have you listened to that voice mail? I couldn't help but lead the SN column today with Tiger. Not because a star athlete -- star anyone, really -- having an affair is particularly novel. In fact, it's all-too-typical; it doesn't matter if it is the greatest athlete of our generation.

But the titillation is always in the details: Listening to Tiger's fairly desperate voicemail message was riveting. Reading his text messages was crazy -- you'd have to be a robot not to be curious. Partly, it's because we don't know anything about Tiger; partly, it's because he is an empty vessel that we all project our own hopes and dreams for our own lives into:

Best in the world at his job.
More money than he'll ever need.
Beautiful model wife and cute kids.
And, for many of us, he's our age.

More you'll find today:
*We'll remember Bowden for the streak of Top 5 finishes.
*Carlos Dunlap: Ugh.
*Why isn't Notre Dame hiring Brian Kelly?

Lots more. Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Carlos Dunlap Suspended for SEC Title Game

Damn it. What a complete idiot.

Urban has a pretty good history of being able to circle the wagons and turn this into a rallying point for the players who WILL be playing. And Dunlap's replacement, Justin Trattou, is a future NFL player in his own right. It's not the same as Dunlap, but the D is still very strong.

But, man: What an idiot Dunlap is. I'm sure he feels worse about this than anyone.

-- D.S. To Launch This Month

Just in time for the Lakers playing on Christmas Day, ESPN is going to launch the local site in LA that everyone knew was coming.

And guess what: It's going to erode the local sports newspaper market share in precisely the same way it did in Chicago, Boston and Dallas.

Let's go through our usual review of ESPN's substantial assets in the LA sports market:

Start with this: There is no NFL team. That's a big deal. (And USC and Pete Carroll seem to love ESPN.)

Nope, LA is a basketball town. And ESPN already poached the Times' leading NBA voice -- JA Adande -- years ago. Oh, and Bill Simmons lives in LA. (Enough said.)

Meanwhile, the TrueHoop Network already has a partnership with leading Lakers blog ForumBlueandGold. And TrueHoop Network managing editor is Kevin Arnovitz, who is also the world's leading Clippers blogger.

If they want the Times' leading columnist, Bill Plaschke, all they have to do is cut video from his Around the Horn appearances. Hard for him to dutifully promote the Times' online sports offerings while he's being featured on

Someone needs to Comment with an inventory of what ESPN has locally to cover the Dodgers and Angels -- beyond Adande and Simmons and the rest.

There is a studio outpost right in LA, meaning video content will be plentiful and easy to create.

And there are plenty of local bloggers available to contribute. I'd start with regular ESPN platform presences The Kamenetzky Brothers, who file a top-rate Lakers blog for the Times.

If ESPN really wanted to go big in LA -- really capture the glitz and the scene and the convergence of sports and Hollywood -- I'd go poach Arash Markazi from

The local effort in LA will follow the same template as the first three cities: Instant traction, with the fans being better served than they are currently by the newspapers' distracted attempts to cover sports online. Oh, there will be posturing about how increased competition is a good thing, how the Times is ready to raise its game to serve fans that they purport to know best.

But do they really know the Lakers better than Adande? Do they really know the Clippers better than Arnovitz? Do they really have a lockdown on the confluence of celebrity and sports? All in an environment where they are cutting resources and strained more every quarter?

It will be fascinating to watch.

Guess what, NYC: You're next -- before baseball season starts. And it sounds like Pittsburgh is on the drawing board....

-- D.S.

On Dads Talking About Parenting

With all of this weekend's parenting excitement around here, Lizzie Skurnick has a pretty impressive take-down of the self-obsessed culture of hip fatherhood that JSF and Chabon have successfully mined in recent books. All I wanted to do was drag my kid to an affordably exciting basketball game! Yes, it was self-indulgent of me to teach the kid to shout "He's on fire!" Now, what was that about lucrative book deals...?

Tuesday 12/01 Quickie: Saints, Weis, Bowden, SEC, Dunlap, Mauer, Tiger

Sorry for the delay this morning. Tons in the column today:

Led with the Saints -- the perfect team on the way to the perfect ending to the decade in the NFL.

Could have led with Weis: His ouster was a foregone conclusion -- who's next SHOULD be (Brian Kelly). Why do I have the feeling it won't be?

Could have led with Bowden: He had plenty of chances to go out on his terms. You can't run a program into mediocrity and expect to get the same treatment, I don't care who you are.

But the Saints pounding the Pats were the story. Their offense is absurdly good. Their defense is surprisingly good -- shutting down the Pats' offense is no small thing.

More you'll find in the column:
*Tiger will do whatever Tiger wants.
*Joe Mauer sets up his leaving Minnesota.
*John Wall can pass the ball pretty well.

What you won't find: Carlos Dunlap's DUI. Ugh. Let me offer an update:

First, his value to Florida's D, which I think is arguably the best defense in college football of the last 20-30 years: High. His presence makes everyone else that much more dangerous. Spikes is great and Haden is amazing. But Dunlap is the best DE in the country -- the Franchise.

Second: What should Urban Meyer do? This isn't an eye-gouging. This is a freaking DUI. And he's not even 21. In theory, he should suspend him for the entire game. In practice, he could probably get away with suspending him for half the game. Meyer would take a ton of heat, but if sports fans forgive transgressions for anything, it's winning. This would be forgotten on Sunday morning, if the Gators won.

Check out the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 30, 2009

UFaiL: UFL Loses $30 Million

So the UFL apparently lost $30 million in its first season, which to me is appalling -- particularly for a league no one watched or cared about.

I think about what I could have done with $30 million (here's a start). They approached this all wrong.

Instead of being a true development league for the NFL -- by recruiting the high-end college players the NFL won't allow in -- they were a severely watered-down version of the NFL.

The playbook is so simple: If their vision is to be the pipeline to the NFL, the UFL should go all in and open their league to any player, regardless of years of college experience.

I would have taken that $30 million lost, split it into two teams, each with $15 million player payrolls, then recruited the best college sophs and juniors and had them play each other in venues across the country, while focusing exclusively on getting them ready for the NFL.

What a wasted opportunity. Do you pronounce it "U-F-L" or "U-Fail?"

-- D.S.

Monday 11/30 Quickie: Tiger, Tebow, Favre, MNF, Weis, Dixon, Gerhart, Nets, More

Welcome back. In case you missed it yesterday, please check out my piece in Sunday's New York Times sports section about taking my older son to his first hoops game. More on that later today.

Wow: That was a hell of a weekend in sports.

Today's SN column leads with Tiger. Of course it does. The Tebow Swamp finale was great and the Favre-for-NFL-MVP bandwagon is more crowded than ever, but this Tiger story is THE story.

But my point is: Not that you'll find out what happened.

Normally, I'm all for the school of scandal management that is, basically, "rip the Band-Aid off." You know: The cover-up almost always compounds any fall-out from the original problem.

But with Tiger? He is actually powerful enough -- the most powerful athlete in sports, frankly -- to withstand the scrutiny of neutered newspapers, traffic-hungry TMZ and a sports media oligarchy that really has no interest in messing with one of their biggest cash cows.

Between the long holiday weekend and the nothing-to-see-here-let's-move-on media coverage, Tiger is as close to untouchable as you get in sports. And he is taking full advantage of that.

I mean, it's not like we are without storylines to discuss today:

*Tebow's Swamp finale: Over the top, no question. Even I'll admit that. But it seemed appropriately scaled for the man and moment.

*Meanwhile: Even the biggest cynic can get on board with Florida-Alabama as the Game of the Year... and, I would argue, the biggest game in SEC history.

*Brett Favre for 2009 NFL MVP. The bandwagon is more full than ever. (Hand-in-hand: Percy Harvin for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Feels like a lock.)

*Vince. Young. Wow. Just... wow. The best game of his career, and he did it almost entirely with his arm (certainly that last 99-yard drive). How about VY for MVP?

*My Heisman ballot Top 3 finally includes Tim Tebow -- I held out a reasonably long time, didn't I? But Toby Gerhart has my vote, pending what happens next week in Atlanta.

*I also made a few substantial changes at the top of my BlogPoll ballot: TCU is out at No. 1, replaced by Florida, with Alabama at No. 2, TCU at No. 3 and Texas at No. 4. (I was thoroughly unimpressed by Texas giving up 39 points to Texas A&M.)

*I think that the 0-17 Nets should make their Wednesday night game some sort of crazy celebration -- either of not breaking the record... or of breaking it. If you're going to be epically bad, embrace the novelty.

*The team of the weekend in college hoops.... Florida?! That Michigan State win was -- hmm -- unexpected, to say the least. Not sure I buy this team's prospects for March yet, but if they can beat the Spartans on a neutral court, they should be able to make noise in March.

*I am really glad that the Marlins GM debunked that rumor that he was trading Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox. That would have been too much to take. (Don't buy that he isn't dealing Josh Johnson... I just think it'll happen at next season's trade deadline.)

There's a ton more in the column today. Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot

This week's BlogPoll Top 25 ballot shows me regressing -- or progressing -- to the conventional mean: Florida at No. 1, Alabama at No. 2, TCU at No. 3. Texas at No. 4, clearly behind those first three, but clearly ahead of Cincy at No. 5 and Boise State at No. 6. Everything after that is a jumbled mess of contradictions -- but I'm willing to connect Oregon State to Oregon in my Top 10 until we get a resolution to this year's Civil War, which will determine the Pac-10 champ.

Please help out with your comments and analysis; I'll change the ballot Monday per your input.

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

Dropped Out: Mississippi (#14), Clemson (#19).

Welcome, Sunday New York Times Readers

A very special welcome to New York Times readers who saw the essay I wrote in today's sports section about taking my older son to his first basketball game.

For those of you unfamiliar with the blog or my obsessions, every day you can come back here for something related to:

*The intersection of sports fandom and parenting (such as the essay this morning)

*Tim Tebow. (Enough said.)

*The media industry, with an emphasis on sports.

*And daily morning talking points about the biggest stories in sports each day. (First seen at, then here at the blog, and currently also at

For those regulars looking for the usual Sunday morning recap, I've been on the road all morning traveling back from the Thanksgiving holiday. A few tidbits:

*That Tebow Swamp finale was just about as ideal as it could have been. (Go to for more on that.)

*I think even Tim Tebow has to seriously consider giving Toby Gerhart his Heisman vote.

*Now that Boise State is almost assured of a BCS bowl at-large bid, I'd love to see a bowl smart enough to match up Boise and TCU, then call it the "Cinderella Bowl." (Of course, we saw that last year, not in a BCS bowl setting -- TCU won.)

*Don't expect the real story about Tiger and Elin to emerge anytime soon -- if ever. No athlete is more protected and secure than Tiger, certainly in terms of his personal life.

*Most intriguing NFL player of the day: Steelers starting QB Dennis Dixon.

Again, welcome to the NYT readers curious about the writer behind today's essay. If you get the Times paper -- rather than read it online -- it's near the back of today's sports section, with a rather huge picture of my son leading the page.

-- D.S.