Today's Names to Know: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Freddy Sanchez, Monta Ellis, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Troy Smith, FSU, Barry Bonds, Tony Bennett, the Nets(!) and More.
There is a strong argument to be made that sports is at its most fascinating when the entirely unexpected happens.
Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum: Ace vs. Ace, right? This will be a low-scoring nail-biter, right? Staked to an early 2-0 lead, Lee is going to cruise, right?
Instead, it was an offensive explosion. Lee was shelled. Lincecum was OK -- relative to an 11-7 runs-fest -- but this was hardly the promised pitchers' duel.
This goes back to those predictions people make about how things will shake out: The Rangers won't get out of the ALDS, remember? The Giants have no shot against the Phillies' rotation. Well, the Giants have no shot against the Rangers -- at the very least, Cliff Lee is unstoppable.
[Aside: The predictions business has gotten silly (if it wasn't already); everything is either triumphalist "Told you so!" but rarely "Jeez, I was totally wrong -- y'know, I was really just guessing." (Yes, I'll include myself in that indictment). That's when folks aren't hedging to try to have it both ways; beware of predictive statements that are fueled by those assertive positions "might" and "could."]
I love a superlative as much as anyone, and I loved the idea that in Cliff Lee, we were watching the best postseason pitcher of the past quarter-century.
But I found myself liking the unexpectedness of him getting smacked around even more.
Tonight: CJ Wilson vs. Matt Cain. Is it too early to call this must-win for the Rangers? (Well, yes, but still....)
NBA Opening Night, Part 2. 13 games, with plenty of notable performances:
*The Heat win their 1st. (Now, um, .500!)
Wade (30 pts) shook off Game 1 FG problems.
*The LeBron-less Cavs beat the Celtics.
Transitive: Cavs > Celtics > Heat. Cavs > Heat!
*Breakout Star: Monta Ellis. 46 points!
Eclipses Curry's 25p/11a and Lee's 17p/15r/6a
*Blake Griffin: 22/14 in his NBA debut.
With a monster dunk to score his first 2.
*Stud: Luis Scola 36/16
*Bandwagon Thunder beat Bulls
Westbrook looked even better than KD.
*The Nets win!
Tonight: The debut of the John Wall Show. (I harbor no illusions: The Wizards are going to get rocked down in Orlando by the Magic, my pick to win the East. But I'm eager to see Wall.)
NFL Mid-Week: Troy Smith is your intriguing fantasy pick-up of the week. He could have a brutal game -- even worse than Alex Smith -- or maybe he has one of those unexpected awesome days. I'm not suggesting he will pull a Ryan Fitzpatrick from last Sunday, but if your regular QB has a bye week, why not?
Favre Watch: Willing to give it "a try." Why does everything with Favre feel like he is posturing for maximum self-glorification? (Um, because he is?) Let's not lionize him for trying to gut it out and play on that gimpy foot. Why isn't the question: "Is a half-speed -- or quarter-speed, whatever -- Brett Favre better than a full-strength Tarvaris Jackson?"
CFB Tonight: FSU at NC State. The 'Noles are rolling through the ACC, but a Thursday night ESPN game on the road against the fiesty Wolfpack has all the makings of a trap game. If FSU gets through this one, its surge up the polls will continue.
(Looking ahead: FSU gets UNC and Clemson in Tallahassee before finishing the ACC regular season at Maryland. They host the Gators before a potential match-up in the ACC title game with VA Tech, which might have a 10-game winning streak by then.)
BlogPoll Top 25: The group has Oregon at No. 1 and Auburn at No. 2. The pro-Boise (anti-BCS) crowd will protest, but few fans would complain about the ridiculous numbers these two teams would put up in a title-game match-up.
Meanwhile: Boise State is No. 2! (In the initial NCAA wrestling poll!)
Barry Bonds Watch: How comfortable -- even (dare I say) happy -- did Bonds look among the Giants faithful last night? He says he wants to return as a hitting coach, and I say: Why not? If Mark McGwire can do it, Bonds can do it. I've never considered Bonds the "teacher" type, though.
Tony Bennett: What a treat that was last night (no pun intended).
This story about the Notre Dame student, Declan Sullivan, who was killed when the football film tower collapsed, is horrible. Condolences to his family and friends and the entire ND community.