Saturday, June 05, 2010

Coach John Wooden and Success

John Wooden had the kind of inspired life that makes any kind of tribute feel unworthy.

So I will relate my own connection to him:

When I was a kid, I read Coach Wooden's "They Call Me Coach" and was so amazed by his "Pyramid of Success" that I hand-wrote my own copy and taped it to the wall above my desk.

I memorized his definition of "success," essentially: Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

There are plenty of other Wooden quotes worth reading -- and applying to your own life.

RIP, Coach.

-- D.S.

Friday, June 04, 2010

06/04 Quickie: Imperfect, Finals, Pac-16

I needed closure in today's SN column on the Galarraga-Joyce story, which I think is one of the best of the year -- and one of the best baseball stories in years.

I am a huge fan of a comprehensive instant-replay system in baseball. I am against Bud Selig overturning the call to give Galarraga a perfect game.

But those are secondary ideas, relative to the larger lesson of sportsmanship -- a social compact that had to be met by both participants:

Galarraga had to not flip out over the call; he didn't, remarkably. Joyce had to not deny he made the wrong call; he didn't, to his credit.

It all culminated with that meeting at home plate yesterday. It was the epitome of sportsmanship in sports -- and the perfect lesson for the Imperfect Game.

More you'll find in today's column:

*Suddenly, the Celtics look tired.

*The Pac-16? Why would Texas go there, when they could go to the Big Ten or SEC?

*My pick to win the Spelling Bee is already out. Drat.

This post is already 6 hours late. Tons more in today's column. I'm headed down to Georgia for a wedding this weekend, but should be posting tomorrow morning, Sunday afternoon and throughout the weekend on Twitter.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

06/03 Quickie: Griffey and Galarraga

My challenge this morning was to link Ken Griffey to Armando Galarraga -- I haven't seen anyone else do it yet, and I hope I pulled it off.

The gist of today's SN column lead: Two sides of "not quite" -- one mythic, one mythical.

For Griffey, I say this: For all the skills (power, speed, defense) and the mythology (Upper Deck '89, The Kid, Junior for President), he is saddled both with "What if?" and as the greatest player never to play in a World Series.

For Galarraga, I say this: It was the ultimate "not quite" -- this wasn't your average one-hitter-away-from-a-perfect-game. This was a perfect game that was robbed on the final out by a bad call. In imperfection, we will remember Galarraga a lot more than if he had thrown what would be known rather anonymously as "the third perfect game in a month."

Check out the column for yourself to see if I pull it off or just stretch a bit too far.

Otherwise, there is a ton in the column today -- way more than I thought there would be for a first-Thursday-in-June column:

*There is no reason baseball shouldn't have a more comprehensive instant-replay policy.

*Ump Joyce did everything right: Immediately admit fault, express sincere remorse. The chatter nearly instantly went from "Joyce sucks!" to "He's only human."

*By the way: The NBA Finals start tonight, and I will watch with a renewed appreciation for Kobe, playing with the greatest mastery of the game he has ever had.

*Plus this odd sensation of not hating these Celtics -- they remind me too much of the 1995 Rockets, my favorite NBA title team ever.

*That doesn't mean there can't be some Boston schadenfreude: How about the supposed issues between Tom Brady and the Pats?

*Boise State to the Mountain West? Yes, please. Two problems: (1) It won't happen until 2011, a year after BSU wins the national title. (2) Utah and BYU will eventually leave for the Pac-10.

*Tom Thibodeau should hold out for the Bulls job. Let Monty Williams have the Hornets job. The bigger point: Finally, some new NBA coaching talent, rather than re-treads.

*I almost always take Tiger over "the field" in any given golf tournament. For the Memorial, I'll take the field.

*Spelling Bee. Only the most pressure-packed competition in sports. And an event that I have historically crushed from a fantasy bee standpoint.

(How long before there actually is a fantasy bee product that gets launched? It is a perfect game for

See the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

On The Big Lead's Big Payday

There are a few reasons I was sincerely excited about -- and for -- Jason McIntyre selling The Big Lead to Fantasy Sports Ventures.

*Rising tide. Deals involving start-up sports media companies or properties are really really good for everyone in start-up sports media. (I'm going to get back to that.) I'm not going to say that this deal is a bellweather for indie sports blogs or sports bloggers -- it more closely resembles an anomaly (see below). But any deal flow is good deal flow.

*Money is good. "Low seven figures" -- presumably a million bucks -- for his huge effort over the years is a hell of a payoff. I felt the same way about Henry Abbott's "acq-hire" with ESPN; about PFT's deal with NBC; about KSK's deal with Uproxx; about EDSBS's deal with SB Nation; and -- apples and oranges -- about any sports blogger who works for free (or for cheap) who gets a better financial deal by earning a content contract with a larger site or media company, whether we're talking about Will Leitch or the Basketball Jones guys or Shoals or any number of other folks.

*Valuation comp. It is hard to know what went into the "low-seven-figure" price. FSV already had an ad-sales deal with TBL. Only FSV knows how that traffic was monetizing, but as TBL was one of FSV's most prominent repped properties (and FSV had built itself into a Top 10 online sports property), obviously they (and, most likely, FSV major shareholder Gannett) felt like outright owning the traffic and intellectual property was in their best interests.

To my point above, I doubt this signals some kind of acquisition spree of indie sports sites by larger media companies, and it is unclear what TBL would have commanded from a more mainstream media company. (I would be surprised if there was any, although I'm sure there were at least a few that would have wanted to do a traffic-assignment ad-sales deal.)

Skip that "3 million page views a month" metric from the NYT article; that's a metric that mattered 5 years ago. Stick with monthly unique visitors. Both Quantcast and Compete peg TBL at around 250,000 uniques per month (impressively, up 5X from a year ago). That makes TBL likely the largest (and already among the most veteran) "indie" sports blogs -- it is entirely rare to find a sports blog or site unaffiliated with a mainstream media company that has anywhere close to 250,000. (And just to be clear, I count Gawker and Uproxx and SB Nation and Yardbarker and Octagon as "mainstream." The only indie I can think of with that kind of traffic is SportsByBrooks, which Quantcast has at roughly 600,000 uniques per month, but I'll update if any others come over the transom.) So was this anomalous? Probably.

Let's set that aside: Again, any deal flow is good.

*Mostly, what TBL did is really hard. Here is what I respect most about TBL -- and this goes for any other would-be media entrepreneur: Way too many folks in media were born on third base and think they hit a triple. It is hard -- really really hard -- to create something from scratch, then build it up to the point where you have enough visitors to get enough-to-get-by ad sales, let alone create a couple million bucks in an acquisition.

The NYT piece didn't mention the polarizing place TBL has in the media landscape -- highly regarded by mainstream sports media folks (mainly for dishing and breaking sports media gossip) yet largely derided by other sports bloggers. (From the initial reaction to the sale on Twitter, TBL has earned nothing if not wide respect for the outcome.) It's not like I haven't staked out some ground -- petty and regrettable, by the way -- in that debate.

But here is how I have come to see it: If you are satisfying your community, growing your audience and ultimately making money doing it, it doesn't matter what other people have to say about it; you are doing your job well. As the producer, if you can enjoy doing it, all the better. TBL maintained a laser focus, seemed to like what he was doing and earned a sizable financial reward for the combination. That is a success story.

At this stage of my career -- and, looking backward, at the most satisfying points of my career -- I am personally much more focused right now on building something meaningful from scratch -- something that an audience values and that I love doing and that changes the game and that I can hopefully find financial reward in. When it works out, great. If it doesn't, I will hopefully have learned something and enjoyed myself and not burned too much of a financial investment.

And so when I think about TBL's payday, what I come back to at a fundamental level is entrepreneurial admiration, not just for the exit but for the process to get there.

-- D.S.

06/02 Quickie: LeBron, Wade, Urban

Well, the big story in sports today, at least in sports media, is The Big Lead getting acquired by Fantasy Sports Ventures for "low seven-figures." More on that later this morning.

In today's SN column, I lead with one of my biggest pet peeves: The myth that for LeBron or Dwyane Wade, they care more about winning than anything else.

That is simply not true.

They care about winning -- obviously -- but only within the context of getting paid as much as possible.

If they cared more about winning than money, they would either both sign with the Magic to play with Dwight Howard (and win 80 games en route to as many titles as they wanted) or they would sign with any team they wanted for the league minimum, freeing up room for other free-agent superstars to do likewise. Again: The result would be epic winning.

But "I want to win" is a canard. And I don't begrudge LeBron or Wade for wanting to get paid. Hell, we would all do the same thing.

What I begrudge is that they insist they put the premium on winning, when they are already narrowing their ability to win based on parameters of getting paid.

Money is the No. 1 priority. Winning is No. 2. A distant 2nd, actually.

Here was my kicker from the column: If LeBron and Wade and Bosh and the rest really wanted to make NBA history -- I mean do something that no one has ever done before AND win as many rings as they wanted -- they would put winning over money.

(Don't argue that by picking Chicago or New York over Cleveland, LeBron is giving up tens of millions and somehow taking love over money. I'm talking about orders of magnitude: LeBron playing for a million bucks in Orlando and winning 80 games and a title next year.)

It is an earnest, pie-in-the-sky (even naive) attitude for me to take -- but I sure wish we would at least acknowledge that "I want to win" is subordinate to "I want to get paid."

More in today's column:

*This ain't the 2008 NBA Finals.

*Urban Meyer: Hmm... I'm confused.

*Joe West: MLB's biggest villain?

*Bryce Harper: One week to go.

*Federer: Upset of the Year?

(No, really: Is Federer losing before the semis of a major a bigger upset than, say, Kansas losing to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament first weekend? How about the Bruins losing a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers? I think it is.)

*I approve of the Marlins selling unused Perfect Game tickets to Phillies fans. If you don't want one, don't buy one. (But if I was a Phillies fan, I'd probably buy one.)

See the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

On Drafting Bryce Harper

The double-sided enthusiasm around Stephen Strasburg's first start as a Nat combined, 18 hours later, with the Nats drafting uber-prospect Bryce Harper has me enthusiastic and riding a nice little fairweather bandwagon for "my" Nats.

Don't get me wrong: I have been partial to the Nats since they relocated, which itself is based only on my youth in Bethesda and general affinity for the DC area. But I will admit I have had a pretty metzo attitude about them up until this year. And yet I feel no shame in late-adopting a less tepid allegiance. Buying a Strasburg and/or Harper jersey (or jersey T-shirt)? Sure!

Meanwhile, Joe Posnanski weighed in on Harper. I love Joe's writing -- he is among my favorite sportswriters. You should read his post on Harper, because it will give you context for my response, which I almost put in his post's comments, then moved over here. Here's me:
I'm just not quite sure how this Harper analysis from Joe's unnamed scout wouldn't apply to EVERY prospect -- certainly the ones at the top or the "can't-miss" types.

I'm sure you could have even found someone to say before the 2003 NBA Draft "LeBron MIGHT NOT be a once-in-a-lifetime player." (And, indeed, that critic might now be saying, "He may be great, but he still can't win when it counts.")

My point is that there hasn't been a draft in history that hasn't included at least some form of caveat or some contrarian viewpoint, for every single player -- including the "can't-miss" stars. Especially the can't-miss stars.

The logical follow-up question is: So?

So what would the unnamed scout advise the Nationals to do: Not draft Harper because a couple scouts are bearish? OK, I'll take that on its face. So who would those bears like the Nats to take? Can they find a single prospect in this year's draft that wouldn't come with at least one question or bearish analysis attached?

The pace of contrarianism is constantly getting faster, but getting from a scout "Well, he MIGHT not pan out," simply for what seems to be its own sake, doesn't seem bold or insightfully cautionary.

It seems like CYA and the chance to purchase a costless option on "Told you so."
Note: I'm not criticizing Posnanski, per se. I do have an issue with his anonymous scout sources peddling the "You never know if a draft prospect might not work out!" thing. What's the point? (As always with Joe, he provides an absurdly high level of surrounding facts and analysis -- which more than outweigh what might be considered a tenuous premise.)

-- D.S.

World Cup Pick 'Em: Daily Quickie Readers

Well, why NOT have a World Cup Pick 'Em game? Sign up here -- it's the stand-by group name: Daily Quickie Readers. I cannot possibly do worse than I do for the NCAA Tournament.

06/01 Quickie: Ubaldo, Finals, Bledsoe

We are two months into the baseball season, and I lead today's SN column with a simple but mind-blowing proposition:

As good -- as great -- as Roy Halladay has been in his transfer to the NL (capped by the weekend's Perfect Game), Ubaldo Jimenez has been even better.

Ubaldo helps the cause with his best win yet (yes, even better than his perfect game in mid-April) -- a complete-game shut-out win over Tim Lincecum.

That gave Ubaldo -- who has earned One-Name Status, obviously -- 10 wins through the season's first 2 months (on pace for 30 wins!) and lowered his ERA to sub-0.80. Good gracious.

More you'll find in a loaded, post-three-day-weekend column:

*I keep hammering the Celtics-as-'95-Rockets thing. But I pick the Lakers to win in 6. Andrew Bynum reprises his 2008 role as "Finals X-Factor."

*Is it too early to get obsessed with MLB divisional races in the NL East and Central? No.

*Strasburg. June 8. Weather-permitting.

*Duke's men's LAX title was impressive -- it broke the stranglehold of "UVPrinceHopCuse" -- but Maryland's win over 5X defending women's champ Northwestern was more impressive.

*I couldn't have lower expectations for the NCAA's findings against USC football, coming Friday.

*The Kentucky/Bledsoe scandal -- brewing -- was entirely expected. What is amusing is that it is much more humiliating that Wall-Bledsoe-Patterson-Cousins-Orton failed to get to a Final Four that the NCAA could subsequently strip away than the stripping away of wins itself.

*I am so ready for the World Cup to start next week. Do I buy a US MNT jersey? Did you?

Lots more in there. Check it out here. More later. It's June, y'all. Let's get going.

-- D.S.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday (Very) Quickie

Pujols hits 3 HR: Yes, I'd say his slump is definitely over.

Howie Kendrick didn't make the same mistake as Kendry Morales when celebrating his walk-off HR.

Dario Franchitti winning the Indy 500 means... more gratuitous images of Ashley Judd. (Solid 6th for Danica.)

Upset! Maryland beats 5-time defending champ Northwestern for the women's LAX title.

MLB Today: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Tim Lincecum. Ooh.

Please take a moment today to feel grateful for the ultimate sacrifice made by people serving the country.

-- D.S.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie: Roy, Kobe, USMNT

If Dallas Braden's perfect game was glorious for being entirely unexpected, then Roy Halladay's perfect game was glorious for being the crowning achievement of his Hall of Fame career.

Kobe is simply sick. The Lakers are going to beat the Celtics in 6, getting some revenge for two years ago and earning the rare back-to-back championship.

That was an impressive comeback win for the US men's national soccer team over Turkey. I am still nervous they won't make it out of the group round -- let alone further -- but I think that I have my favorite player on the team for South Africa: Clint Dempsey.

The Stanley Cup Finals are off to a wild start -- were most casual fans watching Blackhawks-Flyers or Kobe-Suns? (Or following Roy Halladay's perfect game through the internet or ESPNews?)

Kentucky/Bledsoe scandal: Is anyone surprised that one of Calipari's star players at Kentucky may have had eligibility issues? Of course, there's no Final Four to strip away...

Kendry Morales' walk-off grand-slam broken leg is the worst baseball injury of the year -- and it is hard to think of a worse one in years.

Fantasy Stud: Buster Posey, 3 H and 3 RBI in his much-anticipated debut. Someone in your league has probably already claimed him, but you should at least give it a look this morning.

(I have been sitting in 1st in my league for weeks -- unprecedented -- precisely for obsessive moves like picking up rookies like Posey. But I was aced out for him yesterday -- capping a week where I'm getting drubbed and will fall out of 1st. Of course, I'm usually in the second division by now, so this is all a bonus.)

NCAA LAX Championships: Duke and Notre Dame will play for the men's title tomorrow.

Northwestern and Maryland will play for the women's title today -- with NU going for its 6th straight national title, a run of dominance that makes UConn women's hoops seem second rate.

-- D.S.