Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday 12/19 (Very) Quickie

Sign up for the (yes, yes: EXTREMELY late) College Bowl Mania pick 'em group. Find it via the usual name: Daily Quickie Readers.

Big day around here. No, not the snowstorm on the East Coast. No, not the celebration of the last day of Hanukkah (although my wife did make some insanely good latkes this morning). No, it's graduation day at the University of Florida. The Gainesville Sun is covering the Tebow angle with a cover story, and quoted me right at the top. Yet one more bit of closure on Tebow's college career.

More on the radar today:

*Anyone else watching UNC-Texas? I hate hoops games in massive football stadiums.

*Seriously, how many more violations does USC football have to have before the NCAA finally says "Enough." It's like thy have an unlimited free pass.

*Say this about the Mariners: They're trying to compete. There would be no other reason to take on the crazy that is Milton Bradley. But when his head is on right, he's so good.

*Name to Know: Matt Szczur, the Villanova all-purpose threat who caught 2 TDs and ran for 159 yards to lead Villanova to an undisputed college football national championship.

*Speaking of Florida, Carlos Dunlap is going to play in the Sugar Bowl -- a game too late.

Last thing: I know that I didn't set up a College Bowl Pick 'Em group this week -- I believe, if memory serves, that I actually won last year's Pick 'Em group. That would be reason enough to retire, but I really enjoy competing with everyone. So even though I'm very late, I created a Pick 'Em group for you to sign up for -- the usual group name ("Daily Quickie Readers"). To be fair to those not seeing it until Monday, I'll weight the lowest possible number of points to the three bowls happening this weekend. My system last year was to simply weight results in increasing value chronologically, as bowls happen. My apologies. I meant to do it two weeks ago.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quickie: Bowls, Colts, Tiger, Knight, Week 15

With college bowl season starting tomorrow, it's time for my annual bowl-sponsor quiz, which leads today's SN column. (My favorite detail is related to sponsors who are only around in 2009 because they took taxpayer-funded government bailouts. It should be "The Rose Bowl presented by You." And shouldn't the GMAC Bowl be the Ally Bowl?)

Anyway, there's a ton in the column today:

*If the Colts are going to give up 31 points to the Jaguars, how many would they give up to the Saints?

*How the Bengals deal with the death of Chris Henry is a massively emotional storyline, but the fate of the Cowboys (against the Saints) and the AFC 7-6/6-7 log-jam will have more people interested.

*Bob Knight let off a broadside on John Calipari that might even make me like Knight. I certainly respect him for saying it.

*Watching PGA honcho Tim Finchem wriggle around in this Tiger mess is fascinating. He has to present confidence the Tour can survive without Tiger (ha), but he can't be so glib that he offends Tiger (ha).

*SN announced their athletes of the year, and I have a few issues. I'm actually not down on Mo Rivera as Pro AOY (better than Jeter!), although I'd make an equally strong (or stronger) case for Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees or Kobe.

*And SN names Colt McCoy their College AOY, which is wrong on a couple of levels -- SN just named Mark Ingram its CFB Player of the Year; Tim Tebow had a much stronger year -- January to December -- than McCoy, and if you've opened it to all college athletes, Tyler Hansbrough has a much stronger case than McCoy.

*I had an eye on that prep hoops game last night between No. 1-ranked Findlay (which I think is an astonishingly -- almost admirably astonishing -- cynical prep-hoops factory) and Northland (Ohio), which pulled the upset behind this awesome kid Jared Sullinger.

*I think we can all feel kind of bad for Cliff Lee. He certainly does.

Check out the entire column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Eamonn Brennan Hired By

Great hire. Kudos to Brennan's a super talent and a great fit to help take's college hoops programming -- whether an uber-blog or a future TrueHoop-style "network" -- to the next level.

(I always get very nostalgic about the college basketball section at I was's college hoops editor from '96-'97, and the beat has a long, proud lineage of editors, contributors and innovations. Oh, and you get to drive during the NCAA Tournament, which is fun.)

-- D.S.

Quickie: Best. Decade. Ever.

Off the news that Tiger was named AP athlete of the decade, I lead today's SN column with an argument I've been wanting to make all year:

This decade has produced the best players ever in their respective sports in a ton of sports:


The common link: All are "individual" sports with little or no dependencies on others.

But Jimmie Johnson is arguably the greatest NASCAR driver ever. This decade, Barry Bonds established himself as arguably the greatest baseball hitter ever. LeBron may not be the best basketball player ever (yet), but he was certainly the best high school basketball player ever. And you could make a strong case that Carmelo was the best college hoops player ever. You could even make the case that, over the course of the decade, Peyton established himself as one of the greatest NFL players ever. And, yes, I'm willing to make the argument that Tim Tebow's career was the greatest of any player in college football history.

It's a testament to training. Cynically, we could say that's a euphemism for performance-enhancing drugs -- legal or otherwise -- but even above-board training methods are so advanced that it can take otherwise supremely skilled and blessed athletes (and most are some combination of natural physical gifts and extremely hard work) and turn them into "best evers."

I'll have a lot more to say about the decade -- I'd like to think that this argument is part of the larger argument that, if nothing else, this decade was overwhelmed by instant history and the superlatives that go with it. And I'd like to think that I had even a proud part of that through the Quickie. But I didn't start something -- I was merely an early adopter; "instant history" was an inevitability across media, sports and otherwise.

Lots more coming over the next two weeks on the decade we have just experienced -- and what's to come in 2010.

More you'll find in today's column:

*Kobe: His best season yet?
*Colts-Jags. Sorry, Time Warner, I wouldn't have watched anyway.
*Chris Henry: WTF?! -- updated, this is just sad, as is any death.
*Mark Ingram versus Ndamuknong Suh
*Would Jed Hoyer really trade Adrian Gonzalez?

Lots more in there. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quickie: Big Ten's 12th? Why Not Navy?

Despite my mid-career switch to SEC partisanship, I remain a loyal alum of the Big Ten. Naturally, this "Big Ten becomes Big Twelve" storyline intrigues me.

First, a caveat: I cannot see the Big Ten adopting an SEC-style championship game. I wish they would, but -- remember -- this is the league that hates playoffs in all forms.

There are a lot of contenders out there that have been tossed around: Pitt, Mizzou, Rutgers... obviously, Notre Dame is a non-starter. I hadn't seen one name that I think is the best fit of all:


I'm going to crib from my own column this morning for the reasons why:
*Academic credentials are impeccable.
*Football program is solid.
*Triple-option is "3 Yards/Cloud" 2.0
*Can keep trad'l games w/ Army, AFA, ND.
*Better than Notre Dame.
*Nearly beat Ohio State this season.
*Non-competitive recruiting strategy.
*But expands B10 footprint in the East.
*Feds could use the BCS bowl revenue.
*It is entirely uncontroversial.
After thinking through the reasons why it works, I cannot understand why this isn't the obvious choice.

(UPDATE: Got an email from someone with a smart point -- Navy would kill the Big Ten's hoops schedule strength. So pull a page from Notre Dame hoops and the Big East: Navy comes into the Big Ten for football only. Probably should have thought that through. Great point. Maybe yoink Notre Dame from the Big East as a hoops addition in the Big Ten, but I'm not sure Big Ten basketball needs a 12th team as much as football does.)

More you'll find in today's column:

*I don't care about 18-0 Colts vs. 18-0 Saints in the Super Bowl. The entire story is whether or not the Saints win the Super Bowl, at all. (Doing it perfectly would be a bonus -- it doesn't really matter who they play to pull it off.)

*Central Michigan is Cincinnati's coaching pipeline -- and, given the track record, why shouldn't it be?

*My once-a-season moment for Jon Scheyer cheerleading. Yes, I hate that I am his fan -- he is the most disliked player in college basketball. You think I want to root for that? Plus: You know how much I dislike Duke hoops. At least I only have a few more months to go.

*The Rockets already proved they don't need Tracy McGrady to be a playoff contender in the West; here's hoping they are giving him a 10 mpg showcase so that they can offload him.

*What we can learn from the best-ever audience for this season's Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Lots more, too. More coming later. Don't forget to check out the post below for my latest take-your-kid-to-sports-event experiment in the NYT.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taking My Kid To A Knicks Game

So last month, I took my 3-year-old son to his first-ever basketball game -- St. Francis, right in our Brooklyn neighborhood. It was fun. I wrote a piece about the experience for the New York Times, published in the paper the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

A funny thing happened, although not entirely unexpected: In the days following the story's publication, the Knicks reached out to me to invite me to bring Gabe to their Kids Day, which was held two Sundays ago.

The Times agreed to publish a follow-up piece from me about the experience -- the comparison, really -- of taking my kid to the Knicks game. And it went live on their site this afternoon.

Check it out here, and let me know what you think. It begs some interesting questions -- more than anything, about how much you want to spend on taking your kid to a sports event (and what kind of value you get for your money).

More on that in a little bit.

-- D.S.

Meanwhile, there are supposed to be a couple of photos on the post. I think they'll get included at some point, but here are a few:

Quickie: Team Tiger Blows It Again

The most stunning thing about today's New York Times investigative report linking Tiger Woods to a Canadian doctor under investigation for various PED scandalousness is the email from Tiger's agent to the Times:

“I would really ask that you guys don’t write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won’t be, let’s please give the kid a break.”

It is one more example of Team Tiger complete mis-reading the situation. First, how they could send that email without off-the-record restrictions attached to it is insane.

But, more importantly, the best thing that could happen to Tiger is that, somehow, the subject gets changed. It doesn't matter that the new subject is PEDs. In fact, better that the subject is PEDs in sports than Tiger's alleged predilection for PEDs in the bedroom.

Despite his team's insistent spin-blundering, here's the good news for Tiger: Nothing turns fans off -- let alone non-fans -- like the discussion of PEDs. No one cares.

They want sex scandal, not steroid scandal. If PEDs take over the discussion, then most people -- fans and non-fans alike -- are changing the channel, looking for the next titillating thing.

That is exactly what Tiger needs.

I actually honestly believe that he has never cheated in golf -- he saves the cheating for his wife. He actually respects the game -- unlike his absent respect for his family.

Is there always a weird haze at the nexus of injured athletes and doctors practicing "innovative" treatments? Yes. You never know -- I would imagine that most athletes don't want to know, and most docs don't want to tell. Everyone feels better, and that's all that matters.

But the best thing that could happen to Tiger is to get wrapped up in some boring extraneous steroid scandal that he will ultimately be not implicated in.

"Don't write this?" One more piece of mismanagement of Tiger, Inc.

(You can read more on this in today's SN column, which also includes discussion of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, John Lackey and the Red Sox, the Angels and the Yankees, Jake Locker and bad decision-making and more.)

-- D.S.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reform The Heisman Process

Last point about the Heisman vote before we pack it away until next season: Everything that is wrong with the current system -- petty regionalism, ignorance, bloat, lack of transparency -- is on display in this quote from a voter, published by the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin:
"The reason that I voted for Ingram, Tebow and McCoy was because I saw them play the most. I never saw Gerhart play an entire game (we work all day Saturday and Saturday night) and only saw a few minutes of Suh’s game against Texas. I refused to vote for somebody based on highlights. And I think you have to represent your part of the country; in fact, there used to be fine print on the paper ballots that instructed balloters to vote “with regard to your region.” However, I think it’s wrong to leave a player off your ballot completely just to help a player from your region, as apparently the case with some Big 12 voters on Tebow year. So I, too, an still unhappy about that injustice."
Good god. I shouldn't have to say more, but I will:

The Heisman Trust needs to have a review of all voter credentials. (I like Volin's approach to limit voting to the former winners and a limited, even rotating, group of media experts who would have to debate the decision around a table, not unlike the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)

But, more simply, it just needs to be transparent: I want to know who this quote is from. I want to know who everyone voted for. I want to know, because if the Heisman is truly the most prestigious individual award in sports, the fans have a right to know how it is determined.

-- D.S.

Monday 12/14 Quickie: Tiger, NFC East, AFC Wild Card, Ingram, LeBron

The Tiger Woods scandal is about money.

That's all.

Not marriage. Not privacy. Not the media. Not a person's individual failings or tastes.


Oh, for Tiger -- who is already rich beyond need -- it might be about his family or is salvaging his reputation (probably only the latter, given the cavalier way he treated the former).

But everyone else has a very serious financial stake in Tiger: The PGA, other golfers, the media (particularly the sports media), the sponsors.

That's what made Accenture's cancellation of Tiger's deal such a big deal: It's about the money.

And why Tiger's "leave" -- what a joke -- is also about the money.

Mistake after mistake, Tiger still doesn't seem to get it: It's in everyone's best interests - including his own -- if he just takes a beating for a few weeks. Then, it's over.

Really: That quickly.

Everyone with a financial stake has a vested interest in getting this behind them. It's a shame Tiger won't let them.

Tiger and the money question is the lead of today's SN column, but there's a ton more: About the wild AFC Wild Card situation; about the NFC East champ and runner-up backing into the playoffs; about Mark Ingram and the lessons of the '09 Heisman; about LeBron schooling Kevin Durant; about celebrating Prairie View A&M.

Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.