Today's Names to Know: John Blake, Rays, Tim Lincecum, Ted Leonsis, Maverick Carter, Dez Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Mike Vick, Roy Halladay, Cito Gaston, Les Miles, Alberto Contador and More.
UNC football uh-oh: So the agent had the assistant coach on the payroll? Even if that's over-simplifying, that's damning enough just as a general concept to ensure that UNC football is in an epic amount of trouble -- it will make USC look like a slap on the wrist.
Rays' attendance, cont'd: So those 20,000 free tickets went entirely and went quickly. As expected: Free is free. That doesn't mean that those fans will now start paying.
I still contend that the freebie -- certainly at that magnitude -- devalues the notion of paying for a ticket in the future.
But at least it fills the stadium for one otherwise 10,000-fan game; presumably, everyone will pay full freight for playoff seats and sell the place out. (But maybe not!)
Oh, and Rays fans ended up getting what they paid for: A listless 2-0 loss to the Orioles.
NL West: Giants win (yet another spectacular pitching performance), Padres win. Advantage: Giants, who are up 2 with 4 games to go. (Meanwhile, the Braves are up 1.5 on the Padres for the Wild Card. I'm no Braves fan, but Bobby Cox making the playoffs in his final season before retirement certainly feels right.)
Ted Leonsis tells the truth, pays the price: There's going to be a "hard cap" salary system in the NBA, come hell or highwater (or lockout/strike). He still shouldn't have said it; David Stern was right to fine him the $100K. But the union is posturing -- how could they not know this is the leagues' position? And why wouldn't they embrace the refreshing bit of candor and return the serve?
Is LeBron backlash because of racism? That's what Lebron and his manager, Maverick Carter, think. While always accounting for extremes, I disagree. Cleveland fans would have been bitter about LeBron regardless, but I think he is talking about the national LeBron backlash, which would have been largely avoided had LeBron not handled the whole thing like such an asshole: Don't tease your home city. Don't go on national TV for an hour. Don't use a douchey money phrase like "I'm taking my talents to South Beach." The LeBron backlash was because LeBron and Maverick Carter were utterly tone-deaf to how their plan would play out.
Quote of the Day: "Lebron playing harder in practice for cameras than when he tanked vs Celtics" -- Peter Gammons, via his Twitter feed.
Dez Bryant's expensive dinner out: I just can't muster the outrage. Yes, $55,000 is a lot of money, in an absolute sense. (Believe me, I get that.) But as a percentage of his overall income? Less than most people probably spend on Starbucks in a year, relative to their incomes.
Donovan McNabb's Philly homecoming: I think fewer Eagles fans will boo than booed him the day he was drafted.
Besides, McNabb-vs-Philly is entirely overshadowed by Vick -- Philly's newest folk hero, arguably more beloved by Eagles fans after 3 weeks than McNabb ever was -- and how he will play.
Felix-vs-CC Cy Young debate: If you're going to pick CC, at least don't use W-L record as your justification. Unfortunately, that seems like the No. 1 data point for all CC-backers.
MLB Awards Week: Roy Halladay is my NL Cy Young winner. Coming tomorrow: NL MVP.
Cito Gaston's home finale in Toronto: Growing up going to Baltimore Orioles games, I will always be bitter that Gaston didn't pitch Mike Mussina -- out of spite -- when the 1993 All-Star Game was in Baltimore. That led to the inevitable "Cito Sucks" T-shirt fad in the DMV area.
I'd be frustrated, too, if I was an LSU football fan. So let's look ahead: If/when LSU fires Les Miles after the season, who would you want to coach? I would actually stay in-conference and try to poach Dan Mullen from Mississippi State. The other option: Appeal to Texas D.C. (and "coach-in-waiting") Will Muschamp that Mack Brown is not leaving anytime soon, and break the bank to bring him to LSU.
Alabama-Florida lead-up: I really have tried to limit my Florida talk here, but if they are in the Game of the Weekend, it's dumb to avoid it for the sake of avoiding it.
What do you want me to say? I remain utterly scarred after last year's SEC championship game beat-down, to the point where I expect nothing less than losing by at least two touchdowns on Saturday. Anything closer than that -- and I won't allow myself to consider that Florida might actually win* -- and I will feel pretty good about the remote possibility of beating Bama in a rematch in the SECCG in December.
* -- Oh, who am I kidding? There's a tiny sliver that thinks there is a chance. And that sliver creates the opening for the crushing sense of defeat when they lose. Any hope rests with Jeff Demps' foot, no longer in a boot but certainly not 100 percent.
CFB Tonight: Texas A&M at Oklahoma State, both 3-0 but unranked, with the winner -- given the national exposure of the game -- almost assuredly entering the Top 25 next week.
Latest BlogPoll Top 25: Mostly interesting to see how far the group, collectively, decided to drop Texas. Remember, I had them pity-ranked at 25 (with a 2010 resume undeserving of even that).
PEDs in Cycling (You don't say!) Is anyone -- I mean anyone -- surprised that 3x TdF champ Alberto Contador tested positive for PEDs?
CBB: Tracking this Michigan State thing. Here's what we know: Two players (unnamed) were accused of sexual assault back in August, but local prosecutors -- after investigating -- decided against filing any charges. Presumably, it winds down there after yesterday's brief flare-up of media interest.
Rooting interests: Just found out that Northwestern will be coming to NYC to play my local neighborhood D-1 program -- St. Francis (team that quasi-famously hosted the first-ever basketball game my older kid ever attended) -- at Madison Square Garden. It's like a house divided!