Saturday, August 07, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

Still would rather talk about the college football Top 25 than anything else, but today is a big day for two of the biggest names in NFL history....

*Jerry Rice (arguably the greatest WR in NFL history) and Emmitt Smith (certainly a Top 5 all-time RB) enter the Hall today, and I don't mean to dismiss the others (Grimm, Jackson, LeBeau, Little, Randle), but the star wattage is Jerry and Emmitt.

The defining detail of Rice's career: His work ethic. That, and the famous pre-draft test that put his 40 time at less than blazing, but Bill Walsh ignoring it and making the small-college star a linchpin of his offense.

The defining detail of Smith's career: The all-time career rushing yards record. Yes, the Super Bowl rings matter a lot (without them, he's a mere Dan Marino), but the record succinctly illustrates the duration and consistency of Smith's spectacular abilities.

We are partial to Emmitt in my house -- he is Mrs. Quickie's favorite player of all time, going back to his college days at Florida when she was an impressionable kid. His college stats were absurd; when he wasn't injured he was absolutely dominant -- on a Herschel-like level.

As for Rice, he is one of those NFL immortals for whom you can never find a fan who dislikes them. You may not have been a 49ers fan -- in fact, you may have hated them. But everyone respected Jerry Rice for his jaw-dropping awesomeness.

Ultimately, both all-time greats are a fairly compelling indictment of the NFL's player-evaluation system: 16 players were taken before Emmitt; 15 players were taken before Rice.

Of course, the two players are forever bound together by history for their dominance on "Dancing With the Stars."

I've always thought that the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was less about the players themselves and more about the fans of those players. If you grew up loving Rice or Emmitt -- or Russ Grimm or Floyd Little or John Randle or Rickey Jackson, congratulations to you.

Today is a wonderful day to think back fondly on the way those players thrilled you.

*Is Tyson Gay over Usain Bolt the biggest sports upset of the year? Yes.

*I'm sure everyone is shocked -- shocked -- to find out that Tennessee football is under investigation for more potential violations under Lane Kiffin.

(With Miami, it's par for the course, but it also comes just when it looked like they were turning the corner to restored respectability. It'll feed the U's whole persecution complex.)

*We all already knew he screwed up. So why would Super Bowl XL ref Bill Leavy re-open the wound now about he and his crew's shoddy work in the game?

*Is last night the start of the Red Sox making an improbable 7-week surge into the playoffs? (It would have to come at the expense of either the Rays or Yankees.)

*So when do the Orioles finally wake up? That's 4 straight Ws under Buck Showalter. Did he switch them to all-cotton uniforms? (More DMV baseball: Can the Nats please lock up Dunn?)

*I love that Anthony Tolliver is ready to mock LeBron openly -- Tolliver goes from virtual unknown to folk hero.

*Isiah Thomas is an MBA case study for failing upwards. We can all hope to fail so successfully in our careers.

(Jokes aside, Adrian Woj expressed the proper point: How can a college hoops coach be a consultant for a pro team? Imagine if John Calipari was a consultant for the Heat.)

-- D.S.

Friday, August 06, 2010

08/06 Quickie: CFB Top 25, Tiger, Rays

Hustling out to accompany my kid and his day-care class to the Brooklyn Aquarium. I've never been busier with work -- but I wouldn't miss this for anything...

*Want to enjoy some "shoedenfreude?" Read about my sorry experience with the Tebow shoe that got away.

*The USA Today Preseason College Football Top 25 is out! Yes, it's the Coaches' Poll, which I loathe, but it's something -- and it's part of the BCS formula, for better or worse.

Alabama is No. 1 -- as expected.

Ohio State is No. 2 -- as expected.

Florida is No. 3 -- despite losing Tim Tebow and a slew of other stars to the NFL. (If that's not an indicator of the talent that Urban Meyer has collected, I don't know what is.)

Texas is No. 4 -- Garrett Gilbert is to Colt McCoy what John Brantley is to Tim Tebow.

Boise State -- my premature pick to win the national title -- is No. 5. (With VA Tech at No. 6, that will make their season opener all the more huge.)

This is the year the BCS implodes worse than ever, and it will revolve around Ohio State's worthiness to play in the national-title game, with either the SEC champ (unbeaten or one loss) or an unbeaten Texas left out, if the Buckeyes fool their way in. (Poor Boise State won't even rate into the discussion, despite beating VA Tech to start the season.)

Prediction: Unless Ohio State is the ONLY unbeaten team -- and we saw how well that worked out for them in 2006 -- BCS voters will look at OSU's track record and vault the SEC champ and Texas ahead of them, treating Ohio State like... well, like Boise State, frankly.

(I say this every year: Filling out the BlogPoll is one of my favorite things of the year. My initial ballot is coming soon, and as usual I want your input.)

*It's OK for you to say it: Tiger kinda sucks. Now, he may regain his form -- at which point you're perfectly entitled to respect his game again. But until that happens? He just ain't good.

It is, in a sense, the perfect complement to the old "Tiger vs. the Field" phenomenon where every tournament Tiger entered, you just assumed he'd win and were surprised when he didn't.

Now, even though there's a part of you that still assumes he's going to win, there is a bigger part of you that is tuning in to see just how much of a train wreck this guy's game has become.

It is like A-Rod stuck on 599 squared.

*So how about that "dome run" that the Twins used to rally past the Rays? What happens when that loss is the difference between the Rays getting home-field advantage over the Yankees for the playoffs? (Eh, I'm overstating -- MLB has always been about "just make the playoffs." Still: A "dome run!")

*Bob Davidson's missed call in the Phillies-Marlins game is one more reason that baseball is desperate for more extensive replay. Let's focus on the big picture: Getting the calls right.

*No, Roger Goodell shouldn't cut Big Ben's suspension. That will just enable the guy that there are no consequences.

*Well, the new Rangers owners aren't Mark Cuban (unfortunately), but they do seem to be saying all the right things. For now, at least. But the proof in the "We'll spend!" claims are in the payroll.

*Karen Sypher: Guilty. That was obvious -- less obvious was the Sharpie-permanent humiliation of Rick Pitino.

*Keith Olbermann off of Football Night in America? You can disagree with KO's politics, but he was a terrific talent to read over the day's football highlights. Hope this didn't have to do with his polarizing work on Countdown.

*Huge and sincere thanks for the near-overwhelming response to yesterday's Legwork post. Your enthusiasm is inspiring.

If you haven't seen it and are interested, check it out and get back to me. I'm going to try to get through it this weekend and get back to everyone by early next week.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Looking For Some Help With a Project

Hey, everyone: If you consider yourself a sports news junkie and seem to spend all your time refreshing Twitter and blog feeds but can never get enough, I want to hear from you.

I am looking for a clever self-starter with phenomenal attention to detail and an interest in hustling over the next few weeks to help me with some legwork on a research project. (Journalism or media experience is good, but I have a pretty elastic mindset about what that means.)

You would ideally be able to give me a total of 10-15 hours over the next few weeks, but I’m not fixated on when you do it -- during slow times on your job or summer internship, at night, on the weekend, whatever fits your schedule. NYC-based is good, but not necessary (we can talk via Skype and IM).

I can afford a gratuity -- it won’t be much, but it will let you feel like it is more than “unpaid.” (If you are willing to do it "for the experience," that's fine, but I'm still going to do the right thing.) And when you end up doing a phenomenal job, I would love to be able to give you more work. That would be good news for both of us.

If you’re interested (or know someone who might be), shoot me an email that says “LEGWORK” in the subject line and include:

*A short description (say, tweet-length) about your interest;

*2-3 links to some relevant work;

*Your favorite sports and sports teams (specific fandom won't disqualify you!);

*(Optional) The names of 2-3 people I don’t follow on Twitter but should. (If you know my Quickie style, you know my preference: Essentially, keep it short!)

As for timing, I am going to try to get this figured out by early next week. It's short notice, but on the other hand, I don't think this will be a drawn-out process.

Thanks so much for the help.

PS: For better or worse(!), you will not be doing any research related to Tim Tebow.

08/05 Quickie: Cuban, A-Rod, Lance, CFB

Like the rest of you, I am bummed -- but not surprised in the least -- that Mark Cuban's bid to own the Texas Rangers did not win. Here's hoping he can one day get that team. (Although from a strategic standpoint, it was much more important for him to own a Texas baseball team than, say, the Dodgers or Pirates or Cubs.)

A-Rod hits 600th: And the most over-deployed joke of the event was something related to "Well, if you discount for PEDs, it was really only like 300." In 10 years -- if not right now -- no one really cares about those asterisks or PED influence.

Lance: Yikes. To follow on that last point, I really do think that proof that Lance used PEDs won't fundamentally erode the rep he has earned for all those Tour de France wins and his inspiring life story.

To mildly contradict myself, the fact that Lance has protested his drug-free-ness -- extremely strongly -- would only make confirmation of any allegations that much more brutal. In true Quickie form, the cheating might be bad; the lying/cover-up is always worse.

Lots of college football teams get started practicing today, including Florida, whose practices are entirely closed to the media and public. I don't need to watch them or get first-hand media reports to know that John Brantley is going to destroy defenses this season.

(I have no problem saying that my expectations for Florida in Year 1 of the "Post-Tebow Era" is that they will make the SEC Championship with one loss -- at Alabama -- then win the SEC title. The following fact accrues every year: This is the most talented Florida roster in Urban Meyer's tenure at Florida.)

Shaq to the Celtics is official: What a circus that is going to be. By the way, Shaq is making something along the lines of league minimum -- what a crazy coda on his career.

Huge props to reader Garrett, who saw yesterday's item about Shaq and my question about Shaq playing for 6 teams and how many other Top 20/50/100 NBA players had that long of a resume... then in the comments, he totally pulled out Moses Malone:
"I'm not sure where you'd rank him, but Moses Malone played for the Braves, Rockets, Sixers (twice), Bullets, Hawks, Bucks and Spurs. And before he even played a regular season NBA game, he was on the Utah Stars and St. Louis Spirits in the ABA, then drafted by the Blazers in the ABA dispersal draft."
I'd definitely put Moses in the Top 50 and I love this call by Garrett. Kudos!

MLB Studs: Good debut -- almost Lilly-ish -- for Edwin Jackson as a White Sox starter... Now Lilly teammate Vicente Padilla? Even better than Lilly's LA debut... Ubaldo wins his 17th, but it just doesn't feel the same as the 1st-half "Ubaldomania"... Fantasy Stud: Domonic Brown: 3 RBI for the Phillies rookie.

NFL Camping: Sounds like Bucs QB Josh Freeman is not only way ahead of where he was as a rookie a year ago -- typical for QB development. I'm sure he will be even better a year from now. That's why I'm unconcerned about where Tim Tebow is right now. As long as he gets some snaps this season -- maybe even a few starts -- he will be on pace for a leap next season.

LenDale White has found a home: With the RB-light Broncos, who just lost Knowshon Moreno for at least a month and Corell Buckhalter for god-knows-how-long and are left with a stable of unknowns (which is hardly unusual for them). If White would just get in shape and -- well, care -- he might actually make something of himself.

Brett Favre, cont'd: The cell phone picture stuff is at least amusing -- far more amusing than the waffling.

Interesting job opportunity coming later today -- check back around noonish. Need some help with a project.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

08/04 Quickie: Shaq, Cuban, Favre

Watch me evade leading with Favre...

The NBA has done a spectacular job of turning itself into a 11-month-a-year league. Beyond the regular season and playoffs, there was the John Wall Lottery in May, the Draft in June, July's free-agent insanity...

...And even into August -- which should be a dead zone -- the league has three things it can stand on: The schedule release (yesterday, which was big enough), the World Basketball Festival (in two weeks) and, of course, Shaq about to sign with the Celtics.

So about Shaq: There isn't another star among the game's Top 20 ever -- or Top 50 ever (or Top 100 ever) -- who has played for as many teams as Shaq's half-dozen: Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, Cavs, Celtics. He's not "Shaq Daddy"; he's a 7-foot version of journeyman Kevin Ollie.

The Celtics may have no chance of winning the East (then again, I said the same thing last season), but they will be among the upper-echelon of entertaining.

And for yet another news cycle in its offseason, the NBA will get a dominant headline. This is, by far, the biggest and most memorable offseason in the history of the league.


*MLB will never let it happen, but Mark Cuban owning the Rangers would be the best thing to happen to baseball ownership in years, not quite Henry buying the Red Sox but a strong No. 2 with Sternberg buying the Rays. Cuban is the best owner in sports -- although Ted Leonsis is giving him a run for his money. He would make the Rangers relevant, just like he did with the Mavs. (Yes, I'm saying that even in a playoff year, the Rangers aren't particularly relevant.)

*Ndamukong Suh gets paid: There's been some griping that he is getting All-Pro money. Unlike Sam Bradford -- who I think will be a bust -- I think Suh will be dominant for the Lions from the get-go and worth all that money. My pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

*A-Rod still stuck on 599: Of course he is.

*The Rays are back on top of the AL East. In April or May? Whatever. In August? It's a big deal. There isn't a better-run franchise in baseball.

*Ryan Howard, Kevin Youkilis to the DL: Howard's benching curbs what had been a sweet little run of good fortune for the Phillies; Youk on the DL is par for the course for Boston this season. (Youk is also at the heart of my fantasy lineup, which has mirrored Boston's injury issues.)

*Well, hello there, Ted Lilly!

*Carmelo not signing Nuggets extension? That would be an obvious sign he is bolting next summer (Knicks? Nets? Wizards?) and Denver has no choice but to trade him to try to get something before he does.

*See how I refused to lead with Favre? That's because I am certain he will play this season. Just when you think he can't stretch this "will-I-or-won't-I" schtick any further, he does it.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

08/03 Quickie: NBA Sked, B10, Xs/Os

Heat-Celtics to tip off the new NBA season? Can't ask for more than that. I couldn't believe the NBA would put the Heat in Cleveland to open the season, even though that would be the greatest game ever. (Have to believe it will be Lakers-Heat in the NBA's premier Christmas Day spot.)

Big Ten Media Day: Conference title game in 2011, once Nebraska joins and makes it an even 12. Now, about that thorny issue of splitting up the league....

Indians super-rookie Carlos Santana was supposed to be one of those savvy mid-season pick-ups that takes me from middle-of-the-pack in fantasy to the playoffs. D'oh....

As previewed yesterday, Rays top prospect Jeremy Hellickson did win his MLB debut last night -- but it was apparently a one-night-only kind of deal. Much bigger future ahead.

The anti-doping folks are so intent to get Lance that they are willing to give sweet deals to any rider willing to talk with them about Lance using PEDs.

(Either Lance is the most honorable -- and maligned -- athlete in sports history or he is going to get crucified on this.)

That Karen Sypher intended to extort money from Rick Pitino was kind of obvious, wasn't it? It doesn't change the fact that Pitino has irreparably hurt his rep with this trial.

As expected, Phil Jackson signed that extension with the Lakers -- his ultimate career encore can be leading the Lakers to a(nother) three-peat while crushing the dreams of LeBron.

New book out today: Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk" -- a history of strategy in the NFL. (It was previewed in that amazing piece in SI a few weeks ago about Don Coryell.) I'm digging into it now and will hopefully have a review later this week. (In the meantime, here's a Q&A Layden did with the NYT; I'm going to line up my own, hopefully.)

I think A-Rod is trying too hard....

-- D.S.

Monday, August 02, 2010

08/02 Quickie: Rays, Broncos, Masoli

The Yankees-Rays battle in the AL East is turning into something awesome -- Shields over Sabathia brings Tampa as close as they've been since they led the division early in the season.

That said: It feels like a foregone conclusion that one of these teams will win the AL East and the other will be the AL Wildcard, and that they both should advance to the ALCS.

I guess that makes a head-to-head battle on the first day of August a little less meaningful in an absolute sense... and more like foreshadowing.

Strasburg Watch: Throws without pain. I'm not sure how much solace that gives Nats fans who are inclined to presume the worst.

Well, what Ozzie Guillen had to say about how Latino players are treated vs. how Asian players are treated should open up an interesting discussion about race in baseball. Unfortunately, what sports media doesn't do well is discussions about race.

NFL Camping: The good news for the Broncos? The set a team record for fan attendance at training camp (more than 3,100, undoubtedly there for Tebowmania). The bad news? Knowshon Moreno may have torn his hamstring, which will sideline him for at least 3 weeks. (Corell Buckhalter was also injured; the Broncos' RB situation is bleak. Enter Brian Westbrook?)

Darrelle Revis is going to hold out: Depending on who you talk to, he is the best player in the league, the best defensive player in the league or merely the best player on a Jets team that considers itself a leading contender to make the Super Bowl. Whatever: Give him his raise.

CFB: Jeremiah Masoli to Ole Miss. Given his history, he needs a substantial support system. But as a football talent, he will help instantly; the minute he walks on campus -- literally and metaphorically -- he is the best skill position player on the team.

The next big X-sports phenom? Pedro Barros, the 15-year-old who won gold in Skateboard Park at the X Games.

Tracking today: Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays' top minor-league pitching prospect, gets his first MLB start today, to give the Rays' terrific rotation an extra day of rest. Don't go rushing to add him to your fantasy roster; apparently, this is just a one-day thing, even though he is arguably good enough to be starting regularly for every other team in the league.

Ooh: The Preseason Watch List is out! It's not a ranking, but he does list the players in order of their odds of winning -- Terrelle Pryor is first, with Miami QB Jacory Harris at No. 2.

Look who's at No. 7: Florida QB John Brantley, who has never even started a college game before. That's how good he is -- and will be. (No, there won't be a BrantleyBlog.)

Interestingly: Mark Ingram doesn't make the list of 16 would-be winners. That doesn't mean he won't finish No. 2 or in the Top 5 (I suspect he won't, if only because Trent Richardson will get more and more of Ingram's carries), but he won't win.

My biggest quibble: Boise State QB Kellen Moore at No. 11; I see Moore as the favorite. Boise will go unbeaten (potentially playing for the national championship) and Moore will put up sick stats.

Lots of chatter this weekend with NFL training camps kicking off about how close the NFL season is -- let's not forget that college football is closing in fast, too.

I just booked my flight to get to Gainesville for the first two games of Florida's season. Ironically, I will be flying out of Jacksonville an hour before Tim Tebow and the Broncos kick off in their season-opener against the Jaguars. Attendance there was apparently not meant to be for me.

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie

So many trades, but first....

I'm still choking on Sam Bradford's unprecedented deal. Oh, I know why it was what it was (only $1M more than Stafford's, entirely "reasonable" for a QB taken 1st overall).

But if you remember my bearish analysis for Bradford's future (basically: he can't even handle BYU linemen; how will he handle NFC linemen?), then it is a joke.

(Of course, I don't have nearly the same intense hostility about Eric Berry becoming the highest-paid safety in NFL history, mostly because I think Berry is going to be worth it.)

The rookie salary cap is going to be the least-contentious part of the new CBA. I think everyone -- owners, union, media, fans -- can agree that it makes complete sense.

Lance Berkman will get more national recognition in his brief, career-ending (and probably title-winning) stint with the Yankees than he got in Houston.

(Astros fans can lament the trading away of one of the franchise's most popular and successful players, but they should feel good knowing he could finally win that elusive World Series title.)

More notable trades: Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals; Ted Lilly to the Dodgers; Kerry Wood on the Yankees; Rick Ankiel on the Braves; Chad Qualls to the Rays.

Everyone may be watching A-Rod, but the Yankees' MVP this season remains Robinson Cano -- who had the key HR to send the Yankees past the Rays.

Stud: Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, who hit for the cycle, but did it in the most improbable way possible -- with a walk-off HR to win the game.

Is Rudy Fernandez going to the Bulls? (I'm a Rudy fan and was bummed the Wiz didn't make a stronger play for him.)

More tomorrow morning.

-- D.S.