Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Night (Very) Quickie

I'm going to DVR the Dunk Contest, so I can skip through almost everything and just watch the handful of dunks being done. And I'm in a crappy mood because I just watched Florida lose at home to Xavier (not that I wasn't convinced they would lose -- who didn't see that coming?)

And I just watched my Wiz get fleeced by the Mavericks in a trade. Trading Caron Butler for Josh Howard? OK, I get it. But throwing in Brendan Haywood seemed unnecessary, given that Haywood was attracting his own attention. The Mavs got much better (Butler is terrific and Haywood is a body to throw at Bynum and Gasol. Even Stevenson is a fearless chippy defender to stick on Kobe.)

The Wiz have given up -- we knew that was coming. Back in June, I appreciated them going for broke this season with their core and Miller/Foye; right now, I wish they had Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings and at least some hope for the future. Things will get much much worse for the Wiz before they get better -- short of winning John Wall in the Draft lottery.

Danica was a dud today -- the wreck put a point on it, but it's not like she was challenging the leaders before that happened.

More tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quickie: Olympics, NBA All-Star, Daytona

For an event so many people purport not to care about, the Winter Olympics generate a couple of different responses:

*Yay, love it all!
*Eh, who cares!

I'm of the mind that it's the ultimate "Did you hear about X?!" -- there are so many athletes (and sports) you haven't heard of or don't care about that the news is distilled down to the weird or uber-dramatic. You might not have seen it live, but you hear about it instantly afterward. It is an event made for viral sensationalism.

That's the essential point of today's SN column: We pretty much know what's going to happen at the NBA All-Star Game, as well as the Daytona 500. The Olympics are about a lot of sports we don't know much about and athletes we know even less about.

And that's the opportunity for excitement.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quickie: Bigger Dud: UNC-Duke or Vonn?

I was all set to lead today's SN column with something about Lindsey Vonn, THE star of the Winter Olympics and whose shin injury may turn her into the biggest Olympic fizzle since... eh, Bode? (But that would be last Winter Olympics...hardly a big superlative there.)

But I was compelled by Duke-UNC last night to lead with that, because it's two programs I have no love for -- and college hoops' "best" rivalry looked like a dog.

Duke may be 20-4, but does anyone have any confidence that they will get to the Final Four? Go back and watch the tape of the Georgetown shellacking.

UNC is having a humiliating season on par with Doherty in '02-03 -- maybe worse. We all knew Doherty couldn't coach; Roy is coming off a title and his team was preseason Top 10.

(That detail about preseason expectations/hype -- however ludicrous and wrong-headed... DECOURCY!!! -- allows me to compartmentalize Williams in '10 from Florida in '08.)

UNC being so mediocre gives one last bonus to those of us who hate Duke: It deprives Duke of the full thrill of beating UNC, which so rarely happens these days. And in Chapel Hill, no less! Alas, the rest of us say: "Big whoop: UNC stinks this year."

But I will say this for Duke fans: They dish out the schadenfreude as good as they get it -- at least when it comes to UNC. Duke fans will be willing to trade the rest of us discounting their win over UNC if it means that UNC is so bad this year that they deserve the discounting.

See the rest of today's column here. Apologies for the late posting.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quickie: Most Memorable, Cont'd

Thanks for the discussion yesterday -- the list of most memorable champs ever, by sport, was the lead of today's SN column, coming to you from a snowed-in NYC. It's a REALLY slow morning in sports news.

Things will pick up by Friday for the NBA All-Star Weekend preview, but when the biggest story is Michigan State losing at home to Purdue (or perhaps Illinois winning at Wisconsin), it's a slow news cycle. I will say that whoever coined "Lombardi Gras" wins the day.

Check out the whole column here
. I'm going to look for more things to blog about around here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Quickie: Most Memorable Champs Ever?

The Saints win was pretty monumental, on a lot of levels:

*I can't remember a more universally liked champ -- or a more universally appealing story of a city and fan base.

*The way they won -- including what I would argue was the gutsiest single play-call in Super Bowl history -- was admirable.

*And, from what we found out yesterday: It was the most-watched TV show ever. Not most-watched Super Bowl -- most-watched TV show, displacing the MASH finale.

All those things are packed into today's SN column lead, but it all begs what I think is a pretty interesting question, which I don't cover in the SN column but open up here:

Who was the most memorable team sports champ of all time?

Factors to consider (and this is intentionally related to the details above): Backstory of the team, how they won, how many people were watching (or: how many people were paying attention).

This goes way beyond the avid fan's recollection of a particular champ -- or their ability to reel off champs in whatever sport, year-by-year.

This is about which champs the casual fan -- even the NON-fan -- will remember most. I think these Saints have to qualify at or near the top.

I was curious if you had any other ideas for contenders: The 2004 Red Sox immediately come to mind. If you head back into the '90s or earlier, you start to (a) lose the ubiquity that comes with being a champ in the digital age and (b) lose the 20- and 30-something fans. For example, the '85 Bears were insanely memorable... but if you're under the age of, say, 33, you mostly likely have no memory other than some hazy notion of the Shuffle and "The Fridge."

I'm going to try to figure out the quintessential, most-memorable champion, team sport-by-sport, and I'd love your input/corrections/etc in the comments:

NFL: '09 Saints
MLB: '04 Red Sox
NBA: '96 Bulls
CFB: '05 Texas
CBB: '85 Villanova (?)
NHL: Yikes. You tell me. ('94 Rangers?)

If the input in the Comments helps me work this out, I think I'll try to make it tomorrow's lead item in the SN column. Here's today's version. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 08, 2010

My Favorite Super Bowl Image:
Drew and Baylen Brees

My favorite image from the Super Bowl? This one of Drew Brees holding up his 1-year-old son, Baylen -- or one of the dozens of variations of it that are circulating today.

Baylen is three months younger than my second kid, and I could not only totally picture myself holding him up in this situation, but I can actually sort of understand how Dad Brees must have been feeling in that moment, sharing it with his son. (And I love the detail of the headphones.)

-- D.S.

Quickie: Saints Are The Anti-Colts?

What stood out for me most about the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Colts was that they quashed the cranks and doubters and pundits who consistently challenge any attempt to go against established NFL orthodoxy.

How many "experts" ripped Sean Payton for going for it on 4th down late in the 1st half?

How many "experts" would have ripped Payton for the onside kick, had it failed?

How many "experts" thought it was crazy to go for 2 on that TD? (I can't believe anyone would find it at all gutsy for Payton to have challenged the call, but I'm sure they are out there.)

How many "experts" -- say, Phil Simms, 10 freaking seconds before the play went off! -- would say that you simply can't run an all-out blitz on Peyton Manning with the game on the line?

And yet: Sean Payton and the Saints did all those things, enthusiastically and confidently. And you can only hope that it cracks the -- shall we call it -- "Dungy-esque" school of conservatism.

You all know how annoyed I am at the Colts for having thrown -- yes: thrown -- their final two regular season games, all in some belief it would help them win the Super Bowl.

It is a tenuous connection to link them, I know, but I can't help it: The team of tank-the-game conservatism lost; the team of go-for-it assertiveness won.

Can you imagine Caldwell going for it on 4th? Or trying for 2? Or -- ha! -- attempting that unprecedented onside kick? No way.

And if Payton had embraced his inner Caldwell, the Saints would have lost.

I needed a good superlative for this Super Bowl, and I got one in that onside kick, which I would argue is the gutsiest/most impressive/best play-call in Super Bowl history.

Obviously, we can say that because it worked. But it definitely wouldn't have worked had Payton not even bothered to try, out of fear or NFL convention or whatever drives most of the league.

Today's SN column leads with a tribute to Payton and the Saints playing to win, not playing it safe -- in stark relief to the way the Colts approached the season.

It was thrilling to see such aggressiveness rewarded.

Tons more in the column, including calling the game-sealing INT Peyton's career-defining moment, my favorite ads, an analysis of the Tebow ad, Georgetown, the Caps and more.

Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Who Dat? Saints Topple Colts in Thriller

I'm still working on my SN column for Monday morning, but I thought that game was terrific, for three big reasons: (1) The Saints -- the new "America's Team" -- won. (2) The win was punctuated by some truly bold calls by Sean Payton. And (3) the game-sealing ending of Peyton's INT couldn't have been more epic -- the league's best QB throwing his Super Bowl chances away in a pick-6.

Much more tomorrow, but a quick congrats to the long-suffering Saints fans -- enjoy it. I thought the Google ad was the best one -- a simple yet smart version of your typical "guy-centric" Super Bowl ad (of which there were way too many and all running together).

And the Tebow ad was an absolute non-event, except that I did not see his tackle of his mom coming; I give them credit for adding in a little playfulness to it. (Too bad CBS ran the Snickers Betty White-tackling right before it, because it gave the appearance of being derivative, which it obviously wasn't.)

More tomorrow.

-- D.S.