Today's Names to Know: Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Paul Millsap, Derek Jeter, Keri Potts and More.
NFL at Midseason: The Midseason MVP candidates being thrown around are the usual suspects -- Brady, Peyton... Aaron Rodgers has broken through to the short list -- but in my dream world, we put unlikely players like Mike Vick on the list. Or LaDainian Tomlinson. Or Peyton Hillis.
There are two main storylines in the NFL each season: Teams contending for a championship and teams (or players) that unexpectedly overachieve (or underachieve). There is plenty of time in the 2nd half of the season to focus in on the playoff contenders.
For now, let's take a second to appreciate the renaissance for Vick and Tomlinson. The way Hillis has carried the Browns to the two of the most impressive wins of the season. The way the Chiefs are on top -- and the Raiders aren't sucking. The way the Cowboys have bottomed out. The whole Moss craziness. I don't know about you, but I love my NFL unexpected.
Added to that quasi-MVP list: Sam Bradford. Let's talk about that last one for a sec...
Before the draft -- and after the draft -- I gave Bradford a lot of grief, mainly skeptical that his flimsy shoulder could stand up to a week-in/week-out NFL beating, particularly on a bad team with sketchy WRs and an iffy line. Let me be clear: 8 games in, I WAS SO WRONG.
Bradford has played great for a rookie. More importantly, he has been able to start every game without getting injured (though I'll still contend it's a long way from Week 9 to Week 17). And his team is winning in ways they didn't a year ago. All with sketchy WRs and an iffy line. Sam Bradford: Midseason Rookie of the Year. And a big ol' mea culpa from me.
Who are your unconventional midseason NFL award-winners: MVP? Best storylines? Leave them in the comments.
Cam Newton, Cont'd: Well, the latest is that Cam Newton's dad and Cam himself actually talked openly to Mississippi State people about getting money to play. (It's unclear why these conversations didn't come up last week, or have dribbled out now.) It's interesting that MSU reported the conversations in January, but it didn't trigger any action. Circumstantial evidence continues to swirl in a tighter circle. Cecil Newton could use a good p.r. advisor.
NBA Heat Watch: One of the things about the Heat being THE story of the season is that teams or players who come up big against the Heat -- ideally, beating them -- get added cachet. It happened for the Hornets last Friday, and it happened for Paul Millsap last night, after Millsap clobbered the Heat for 46 points in a Utah win. (Wonder if LeBron and Wade would trade Bosh for Millsap straight up?) As impressively, Utah was down 19 at the half before rallying.
MLB Awards: Derek Jeter wins another Gold Glove. Really? (I'll go with the Fielding Bible Awards.)
College Hoops: Signing Day. Expect another big haul for Calipari and Kentucky.
Must-Read: ESPN PR exec Keri Potts, who heroically escaped a sexual assault, tells her story.