Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's (Tebow Finale) Quickie

So it's Tim Tebow's final college game tonight. Not a small event -- particularly in my house.

Here's my prediction: Florida 55, Cincinnati 10. Cincy's offense has never seen a defense like Florida's; Cincy's defense has never seen an offense like Florida's. This is Georgia-Hawaii 2.0. (And I say that as someone who has really liked Cincinnati all season long.)

The biggest news: Fox and Time Warner called a truce, allowing me and 13 million other people to watch the Sugar Bowl.

Hope everyone had a nice night last night and is enjoying the bowl games today. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

An End-of-Year/-Decade Thanks

So, yeah, it's been a wild year -- let alone a wild decade. Everyone's been doing this "what were you doing 10 years ago" thing. Here's my shorthand from December 31, 1999:

No wife (not even a girlfriend), let alone kids. Sketchy, cliff-of-dotcom-bubble job. No writing career. Hadn't applied to business school. Horrible, illegal sub-let apartment. Tiny network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. Atrophied-to-nonexistence fan allegiance.

Fast-forward 10 years: Lovely wife I've been with for 8 wonderful years. Two amazing kids. Fascinating work and energizing career path. Wide-ranging writing career, from being on the front page of every day to an obsessive blog about Tim Tebow. Harvard MBA. Homeowner. Huge network. Die-hard fan allegiance.

But as I have mentioned here -- and try to mention as often as I can -- one of the true highlights has been my relationship with you and the rest of the readers. Whether you have been reading since the Quickie or since the blog launched or when I have written for any number of other outlets, I appreciate it more than you know.

I wish each of you -- all of you -- the best in the new year and new decade: Health and happiness.

See you all back here tomorrow. Let's make 2010 the best. year. ever.

-- D.S.

New Year's Eve Quickie

Bonus SN column this morning! I thought my year ended yesterday, but it turns out TSB has the lights on today, so I get one last chance to weigh in on 2009. Yesterday was about predictions (LeBron to Miami! Boise State wins the CFB national title!); today is about resolutions.

I want to lay off the Tiger. (Fat lip! Must...resist...urge...)

I want to watch more bowl games. (Missed last night's Idaho thriller.)

I want to stop worrying about NFL teams tanking -- but want them to call it tanking.

I want to not talk about where LeBron is going this summer. Or where Joe Mauer is going next winter.

I want Fox and Time Warner to resolve their issue before tomorrow night's Sugar Bowl, so I can freaking watch Tim Tebow's final college game from my couch, rather than a bar. might be the most interesting thing I've done this year, professionally -- but I resolve to try something new next year professionally that is both interesting AND generates revenue.

And, as always, I resolve to be a better spouse and dad -- however that might be defined. If I get that right, everything else falls into place.

Check out the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Briefly: Today's Tebow Update Includes Virginity, Taunting, Google & Trickery

Over at, my countdown of the Top 10 moments of Tim Tebow's college career is culminating: (5) Virginity! (4) Taunting! (3) Google! (2) Trickery! No. 1 is coming tomorrow morning; the final game is Friday. I know you are overwhelmed with anticipation.

So After My First-Date Gator-Fandom Conversion...

So you all already saw that my top sports moment of the decade was meeting my wife and converting to Florida fandom.

If you aren't tired of my relationship with my wife yet, here is yet another "most meaningful moment of my decade" essay, this time three weeks after the first date in question, the one in which I was instantly converted to Florida fandom. Three weeks later defined the relationship, well beyond sports.

So this essay is not about sports, but it's a little more exciting than "Ooh! Florida! I'll have what she's having!"

Huge thanks to the brilliant folks at The Awl for inviting me to participate in their end-of-the-decade retrospective, which I highly recommend. My contribution pales in comparison to the others. It's really an honor to be a part of it.

-- D.S.

Quickie: Predictions for 2010

As one of my running themes this month in looking back at the decade has been how absolutely unpredictable most of it would have been in December 1999, I approach the new decade modestly: Today's SN column -- the last edition at SN for 2009 -- is dedicated to predictions for 2010 only. (UPDATE: Just been informed that I am indeed filing a column tomorrow, so call it the *second-to-last* edition for 2009.)

Let's start with the biggie: Tiger will win two majors, and by the US Open, the "redemption" meme will be full throttle (it's what sports media has wanted to embrace all along, and it's why Tiger's hibernation was ill-advised).

But why stop there?

*LeBron will join Dwyane Wade in Miami. (Oh, and he won't win the NBA title in 2009.) Chris Bosh will go to the Knicks.

*Neither the Colts nor the Saints will make the Super Bowl.

*Brett Favre will be playing in the NFL in September 2010.

*Tim Tebow will be drafted in the top half of the 1st round of the NFL Draft -- NOT by the Jags.

*John Wall will be college hoops Player of the Year, but Kentucky will lose to Kansas in the title game.

*The Yankees will beat the Phillies in the World Series (again). Roy Halladay wins NL Cy.

*Boise State will beat Ohio State for the college football national title.*

* - I think I like this last one the most (as a sidebar, 1-loss Florida -- its only loss coming at Alabama -- will beat then-unbeaten Alabama in the SEC title game, but despite intense lobbying, won't be able to get past unbeaten Boise and unbeaten Ohio State in the BCS rankings. Florida will play Alabama in a rubber-match Sugar Bowl that will get higher ratings than the national-title game.) Oh, and Boise QB Kellen Moore will win the Heisman, with OSU QB Terrelle Pryor coming in 2nd. (That might flip-flop... too many Heisman voters love their unbeaten Ohio State QBs... see Troy Smith.)

I'd love to hear your predictions for 2010 in the Comments. I will be writing tomorrow, on New Year's Day and all weekend, if you want to drop by.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yes, Tim Tebow's Career Is Nearly Over

Tim Tebow's college career ends Friday night. All sorts of crazy things kick in at that point, from mega-endorsement deals to all-consuming NFL Draft discussion.

I'm still figuring out just how that's going to work on, but with four days to go I'm leaving it all on the field, so to speak. "Finish Strong," as a certain evangelical QB might say.

Following a relatively slow week last week (until the insane weekend!), I published five new pieces yesterday and a whopping NINE today. I'd love for you to check them out.

The signature is a series I'm rolling out all week, analyzing the Top 10 moments of the Tebow Era at Florida. I'm halfway through -- and No. 5 might be my favorite (coming at 5 p.m.)

Declarations of fealty! Circumcisions! Open weeping! More declarations of fealty! Superlatives! That might sound like me about Tebow over the past year, but yes: All Tebow.

Couple other fun posts, too: There's a bunch of interesting stuff coming from New Orleans (Tebow's favorite Tebowism!) -- the Times-Picayune actually put together what might be, gloriously, the biggest Tebow fluffing in the history of sports media -- two dozen reporters, columnists and college football luminaries, all talking about how much they love Tebow. Naturally, I am last on the list -- but I'm the only one to bring up the circumcisions! (Or TMZ! Or Google! Come on!)

And, I'll tell you what: I am shocked that none of the Florida beat writers have picked up on one post about Tebow's involvement in a potentially controversial Super Bowl ad. (I actually don't think the ad will happen, and I think Team Tebow will walk back -- quickly -- from this before it becomes a "thing.")

Lastly, revel in the schadenfreude that my cable company (Time Warner) might be dropping Fox in a contract dispute at midnight on December 31... just in time for me to NOT be able to watch the Sugar Bowl. (No, seriously: I am very much in severe agitation about this.)

So I invite you to head over to and just start at the top, working backward. The phenomenon -- at least the college iteration -- is almost over.

-- D.S.

Quickie: Decade's Best Athletes and More

Today's SN column lead was a little muddled, I'll admit.

In part, it was a rundown of the best/most intriguing/etc athletes of the decade, which is not all that hard to name: Tiger, Phelps, Lance, Federer, LeBron, Bonds, Brady, Bolt, Tebow, Danica.

Then, I tried to make the point that novelty is sometimes enough (Danica) and off-field mythology certainly helps (Tebow), but championship (or all-time) performances trump all.

That's what we remember athletes for. Gilbert Arenas -- my favorite NBA player of the decade (although one I didn't know I would love way back in 1999) -- was a nice quirky little story. But he wasn't transcendent. It's comforting to know that performance still matters most.

In the next decade, what will we remember? It's obviously hard to say -- who, in 1999, saw Phelps' 8 golds coming? Or Lance's 6 Tour titles? Or Federer? Or LeBron? Or Brady? Or even Bonds? (Let alone things like the Rays winning the AL in 2008 or Florida winning back-to-back basketball national titles in 2006-07.)

We can make a reasonable guess that A-Rod will break the all-time record for career home runs -- that will be the most significant milestone of the decade (short of a player breaking DiMaggio's 56).

We can make a reasonable guess that LeBron will win a title -- maybe more. (Although I still contend that the emergence of Dwight Howard could make that much harder than folks think.)

We can make a reasonable guess that Tiger will break Nicklaus's all-time record for major golf titles. That will be a big deal, too.

But no one will break Phelps' 8-gold record. No one will win 5 Tours in a decade like Lance just did. It's hard to fathom anyone but Bolt breaking Bolt's records in sprinting.

But if someone does, you can guarantee that their name will show up at the end-of-decade lists in 2019. Because winning performances are what people remember most.

More in today's column:

*I agree: The Colts essentially tanked the game against the Jets, just as they'll tank this coming weekend. What I can't stand is any talk from Tony Dungy that Jim Caldwell is being intellectually honest about being "competitive" but Bill Belichick wasn't being equally honest when he played the percentages against the Colts a month ago.

*I'm excited for the Week 17 "play-in" games, but let's be honest: The AFC Wild Card teams aren't going to win the conference title. So let's not get TOO excited.

*Mike Leach: Yikes.

*Steve Addazio is a great guy and a terrific motivator -- and, frankly, one hell of an offensive line coach. I'm also sure he'll be a perfectly fine interim head coach at Florida. Where I would become a little more nervous is if he was still the head coach next fall. (Oh, he'll make a fine head coach somewhere in 2011, and this experience will help his resume tremendously. I just would rather not have Addazio as the full-time Florida head coach for a regular season.)

*Northwestern is ranked in basketball for the first time in 40 years. That is all.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 28, 2009

(My) Best Sports Moments of the Decade

Today at SN, the lead of my column was co-opted by a TSB-wide conceit to name our biggest sports event of the decade, with an emphasis on the personal. Mine was obvious. You can read about it here, but it inspired me to name...

My 10 Biggest (Personal) Sports-Related Moments of The Decade:

*The night I met my wife and converted to Florida fandom.
You have all seen how much this made an impact on my life.

*The first morning the Daily Quickie ran on
Launched mainstream media's first-ever daily national sports column.

*The afternoon I launched my TV "career" on Around the Horn.
Career record: 0-4. Not bad for someone with no prior TV experience.

*The last day of the Quickie -- and first day of
Couldn't comprehend how amazing the blog would be.

*Making the decision to obsessively cover Tim Tebow.
600-plus posts. Was it worth the time and energy?

*Being published on Page 2 for the first time.
Simmons. Wiley. Thompson. Halberstam. Shanoff?

*Being invited to join The Sporting Blog.
Hall. Shoals. Tunison. Levy. Shanoff?

*Getting my first byline in the New York Times.
Actually, seeing my son's picture was more thrilling than the byline.

*Muffing the opportunity to work on Deadspin with Will Leitch.
He and the site were infinitely better for not having me around.

*Florida's national titles in football (06, 08) and hoops (06, 07).
Remember those losses in '06 and '08 nearly as much as the title-game wins.

Also receiving votes: Finishing my first screenplay (a sports movie); finishing (at least) two book proposals (both about sports); my first time walking into The Swamp; my first post on Deadspin; watching "Northwestern 54, Michigan 51"; recieving an encouraging email from Ralph Wiley, which I keep in my wallet to this day; my unborn first child finishing in the Top 10 out of 10,000 entries in the Daily Quickie Readers Bracket Challenge in 2006.

Coming throughout the rest of the week: More decade-in-review stuff.

In the comments: What was YOUR personal best sports moment of the decade?

-- D.S.

Monday Morning Meyer: Deeper Analysis

The morning after the day after Urban Meyer's 24-hour retirement, let's get really pop psychological about him, with a rare bonus appearance by "MBA Dan Shanoff":

The essential point about Meyer has been honed to No. 3 below: It's not WILL Meyer change his style, but CAN he change?

Ironically, he'll have to apply his trademark intensity to the challenge of becoming LESS intense. Will he be comfortable if "Less Intense Urban" can win "only" 11 games a year? What if his intensity is precisely the reason Florida was able to win the national titles?

Read this interesting take by Meyer mentor Earl Bruce. First, a fairly stunning revelation: Did Meyer's health issues materially contribute to the Gators' problems in the SEC title game?

But there was a bigger point buried in there that I want to tease out: For all of Meyer's talents and experience, he seemed unprepared for or uncertain about the role of season-long front-runner. He is much better managing a team as an insurgent through adversity (rallying from a presumptive season-killing loss, going up against a seemingly superior title-game opponent) than coaching from the front.

Consider the way he coached Bowling Green and Utah, even Florida in the first few years. He was -- perhaps is -- a turnaround specialist, a program-maker. Even in 2008, it was a "turnaround" job from the growing pains of the 2007 season.

2009 was an entirely new thing: Defending champs, presumptive favorites to run the table and win again. This was completely new to Meyer, and his expertise didn't necessarily fit with the job. At the very least, he had no experience with it. Perhaps that's why he seemed so unhappy throughout the season; perhaps that's why he burnt out by the end of the season.

As I have said since the summer, "championship or failure" -- the expectations for this season for Florida -- are as rough as any coach or fan can create, arguably the toughest expectations any sports team has faced this decade.

That is an argument for why Meyer's job in 2010 is easier -- far easier -- than 2009 and why he will ultimately thrive again: There are few expectations. He can go back to re-building mode, a personal and professional mindset he is much more comfortable with. If he is to change his fundamental systemic self, he will have a better shot at transforming himself under conditions that feel "normal" to him, that he has experience with before and behaviors he can benchmark against.

There's a lot of talk about college football coaches as "CEOs." This is true, although then we have to get into discussion of CEO management style.

Compare Meyer's approach -- obsessive micromanagement -- to that of, say, Mack Brown, the supreme delegator. Meyer coaches Florida like a CEO manages a start-up; Brown coaches Texas like a CEO manages a Fortune 50 company.

Any good MBA will tell you that the start-up or turnaround CEO mentality can only get you so far before you need to radically change your approach -- or, in the case of a start-up, import the steadier hand of the professional manager (and, in the case of a turnaround job, slide the turnaround CEO in favor of a steady-state CEO.) Even the Google guys had to bring in Eric Schmidt.

I'm obviously not suggesting that Florida get rid of Meyer like a company changes CEOs, but I am suggesting that the changes that Meyer has to make are the equivalent of a start-up CEO changing themselves into a big-company CEO. It's not impossible: Look at Jeff Bezos at Amazon Steve Jobs at Apple. But I guarantee you those managers had to change their behaviors and impulses as their companies changed from start-ups or insurgents to mainstream corporate powerhouses.

As part of Meyer's therapy, I would love to see him talk with experienced CEOs about the business of transforming themselves as leaders from micro-managing task-masters into big-picture delegators, those who were able to do it without sacrificing results.

The analogues don't just come from college football -- Mack Brown or, as Meyer himself alluded to, Steve Spurrier (who definitely seems to enjoy work-life balance). He needs to reach across all sorts of sports and industries to find models that might work for him.

-- D.S.

PS: Lots of interesting and important takes this morning from Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel and Pat Dooley and others. Here's what I'm struck by: Setting aside the physical symptoms, if you squint at the analysis today, aren't we all dancing around the idea that Urban Meyer had what used to be called a "nervous breakdown?"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Urban Meyer: What We Know, Learned

OK, now that was the strangest 24 hours in the history of Florida football. Here's what we know -- and what we learned -- about Urban Meyer:

(1) Meyer will coach the Gators for the 2010 season. When asked the question, he said he felt he would "in his gut." That wasn't just a dog-whistle for recruits; it was foreshadowing. The open question is whether he's back for spring practice or just for the start of practice this August.

(2) Meyer has health problems that are much more serious than any of us know about. Mainly, because he won't discuss them. But his unwillingness to discuss them indicates they are significant. Let's file those away, because you never know when they will come back as an issue.

(3) Meyer has to "get right" as it relates to his intensity. A telling detail came at the end, when he said he would get in touch with Steve Spurrier, a guy not known for his 12-month-a-year, 24/7 coaching regimen. Meyer needs to find work-life balance, and he needs to learn to delegate.

Meanwhile, Meyer would not approve of the attention we have given this story in the last 24 hours at the expense of our families. I'll unpack each of those three takeaways this week.

-- D.S.

Umm, Urban Meyer Is Coming Back?

So apparently, Urban Meyer has changed his mind. He is not retiring/resigning/quitting, but apparently taking an indefinite "leave of absence," leaving Steve Addazio (ugh) in charge.

This isn't without precedent -- actually, it's not without precedent in Gainesville (see Billy Donovan 3 years ago). It speaks to how gut-wrenching (and gut-reacting) this decision was for Meyer. (There's also precedent when Coach K took a leave from Duke in '94-95... if you remember, Duke was atrocious that year without him.)

The big question -- particularly for the 4:30 press conference: Now what? How long of an "absence" are we talking about? What does that mean for recruiting?

And what about all of those health issues that made coaching difficult... even dangerous? Were they overstated... yesterday night?

Again, this all speaks to how the combination of stress, losing, health issues, family and everything else probably made Urban make a hasty decision (to not leave Florida recruiting in the lurch)... one that he ultimately regretted, apparently.

I'd rather have Meyer back -- even under these odd conditions -- than quitting,

UPDATE: So Chris from Smart Football has been tweeting some interesting notions about how Meyer:

*Disheartening that Meyer might merely take a leave of absence during offseason. Point is he's so stressed during the yr could die.

*24 hours later and Meyer ready forgetting that there's more to life than winning/losing fb games. And Meyer's whole thing is his intensity..

*What's the point of a more laid back Urban Meyer? Hobson's choice for him: change the only style he knows or face death? Don't understand

Here was my response to Chris: "Fascinating to wonder if a successful coach can fundamentally change his style and still win. plenty of less stressed coaches who still win."

The point is that I think Meyer was WAY more intense -- even than he is now -- 10 years ago as an assistant or first-time head coach. And he has mellowed since then. I think he can mellow further still without ruining what makes him successful. Yes, part of it is the intensity, but part of it is his meticulousness, his understanding of organizations and psychology, etc. I hope he can mellow out -- it feels like the only way this can work without him working himself to death.

-- D.S.

Sunday (Meyer Resigns) Quickie

Not a ton has changed from my initial opinion last night. We have more clarity:

Urban Meyer is walking away from Florida because the job -- and his intensity for it -- was ruining his health and putting his family at risk of not having a dad, in reality and not just in practice. (Meyer says as much in Pete Thamel's must-read interview with Meyer.)

I will say that this puts the Meyer health scare following the SEC title game in new perspective... maybe we should have seen it coming. At the time, the school passed it off as "dehydration" and clamped down on any news about it. In retrospect, this was the crucial part of the chain of events that led to the resignation. (The SI profile of Meyer was either totally prescient or totally missed it.)

If the price of Meyer's level of unmatched success is debilitating health issues -- and you have a family you care about more than your job, as good as that job might be -- it's not worth it. And I say that as a fan who has enjoyed and appreciated Meyer's effort as much as anyone. (For a brilliant analysis of the news, you've got to read the take at EDSBS.)

I'm not sure how much more Meyer will say at his press conference today than he said to Thamel, which felt like Meyer's dress rehearsal for today's media mob scene. In addition to details about his health and his motivations, I think he will be asked about his future role with the team, his coaching future (back in 2011? ever?) and his thoughts on a successor.

My thoughts about a successor remain consistent with last night: Presuming that Meyer has a say in the selection and will remain with the program in some capacity, at least for a season or two, I think that Dan Mullen fits the profile of the next coach: Meyer protege operationally, some head-coaching experience, loyalty to Meyer at an emotional level.

(This is where Stoops fails the test: He's not a Meyer guy, systemically or constitutionally. And he has no loyalty to Meyer; it would be uncomfortable for Meyer to sit down the hall, as opposed to Mullen. Utah's Kyle Whittingham actually fits that Mullen profile, too.)

And my opinion hasn't changed from last night that this search needs to end today - and by "today" I don't mean "soon." I mean, literally, today. Recruiting -- the lifeblood of any program -- is entirely effected by this; the next coach needs to have feet on the ground with recruits (the existing class of commitments) tomorrow, hovering over them until Signing Day.

Recruiting is the reason that I think this process has moved fast and the decision was only made in the last 24-48 hours. Meyer wouldn't want to screw Florida over with recruiting. I think he made his decision on Christmas Day, then told Foley yesterday, then they immediately decided to announce it, so they could get a coach in place ASAP and put a tourniquet on recruiting immediately. Meyer himself focused on calling recruits last night.

In the end, this is one of those rare cases where the thing is what it is, on its face: Meyer's health scared the hell out of him, and he wanted to be there for his family. I cannot imagine how bad it must have been to take the best coach in college football with the best job in college football and force him to walk away from it.

Are there remaining questions? Of course. But they don't really have to do with Meyer's motivations. We know that much, at least.

-- D.S.