Today's Names to Know: Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Philip Rivers, Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Dwyane Wade, Clippers, Spurs, Duke (Mason Plumlee!) vs. Kansas State (Jacob Pullen!), Terrence Jones, Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, Billy Hunter, Herschel Sims and More.
Vikings fire Brad Childress, promote Leslie Frazier: I think that Childress had created such a toxic atmosphere (between his off-putting personality and his off-base play-calling) that the Vikings are primed for a turnaround under Frazier.
It's a scenario not unlike what the Cowboys have done the past two weeks under Jason Garrett. The same team that was a few Favrian miscues from going to the Super Bowl less than a year ago can play the spoiler -- if not the playoff entrant -- in the NFC.
Chargers crush Broncos: San Diego only just now hit .500, tied with the Raiders and a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. And yet the Bolts feel in complete control of the division. If they can sustain the special teams not sucking, they will run away with the West (before falling short in the playoffs, as usual). Phil Rivers looked every bit like the MVP contender he is: 4 TD passes (on a season-low 233 yards from 15 completions). And, yes, I'm a bit bitter that TT didn't get any PT.
Vince Young's season is over: He's on the IR. The only question is whether his Titans career is over. Jeff Fisher obviously doesn't want him, but owner Bud Adams does. It will be fascinating to see who wins that argument. For now, though: "Rusty" (Smith) is the new "VY."
The Heat hit a new low: They got crushed, at home, by the mediocre Pacers, in Dwyane Wade's worst game ever. (Is that enough for you?)
For those of us rooting for Southbeachadenfreude (new Quickie vocab!), this is a phenomenal development. Yes, yes: It's a long season. But presuming that the Heat will do just fine in the playoffs (although clearly they won't end up doing fine enough), we'll take what we can get.
More NBA: So let me get this straight: Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lost to the lowly Raptors, then turned around and beat the Hawks?...
More eye-opening Ws: Hell of a win (just their 2nd) for the Clippers, beating the Hornets (finally regressing to the mean?)... Are the Spurs the best team in the league? (11 straight wins, including last night's over the Magic)
CBB: Duke-Kansas State is worth staying up for a 10 pm ET tip on ESPN2. (Although I suspect it's going to be a Duke rout.) Speaking of staying up, tune in early to ESPN at 9:30 to catch a glimpse of Kentucky super-frosh Terrence Jones, who destroyed Oklahoma last night. He looked really impressive.
MLB Awards: Joey Votto won the NL MVP -- I had Votto on my fantasy team two years ago, when he had his small nervous breakdown, so I am partial to him. But let's be clear: Albert Pujols was the best AND most valuable player in the NL. He is simply in that zone that Michael Jordan was in during the 1990s where voters give the award to the next best guy, or else they would have to give him the award every single year.
Today: AL MVP. All signs point to Josh Hamilton, who missed a (un)healthy chunk of the season but still put up monster stats. Between Votto's comeback from mental-health issues and Hamilton's comeback from drug problems, it's a hell of a year for MVP-level redemption stories.
Jeter-Yankees Stand-Off: Unless you are a Yankees fan blinded by loyalty to a single player over your team, it is hard to argue with the reasonability of Brian Cashman's position here: That Jeter's age and his on-field performance should factor into how much money the team gives him as he turns 37, 38, 39...even 40.
It is hard to buy Jeter's agent's position that the Yankees somehow "owe" Jeter even more than he is worth. What were all those mega-contracts of the past decade for? (I find the comps to players Jeter's age and who play his position -- which still shows the Yankees are paying well above market value for The Captain -- to be compelling.)
Lockout Watch: NBA union honcho Billy Hunter puts a lockout next summer at "99 percent." That doesn't mean the season will be cancelled, or even that it will have a delayed start. Plenty of wiggle room in the summer for the lockout to happen but still have the season get going by November. Most fans won't be paying attention to the NBA until then anyway.
Pop Culture: It is possible that Oklahoma State football commit Herschel Sims, a star RB from Abilene (TX) HS, may never reach career heights as a college football player as he did last night being featured on MTV's "World of Jenks."
The Death of 2-year-old Lucas Tang at Staples Center: This continues to be a horrible story.