Saturday, August 21, 2010

08/22 Quickie: Mariotti, Stras, Poll, NFL

Today's Names to Know: Jay Mariotti, Stephen Strasburg, A-Rod, Alabama, Ben Roethlisberger, Chris Carpenter, Josh Bell, Lithuania and More.

So: About Jay Mariotti
. Yikes, that's a lot of schadenfreude. It's like the guy has zero allies in sports media -- granted, it would have been a rough moment to come to his defense.

I guess the rationalization comes down to: "What would Jay say about an athlete who did what he did?" He'd kill him, fairly or not... unnecessarily or not. So that's the treatment he is getting.

(For what it's worth, Jay was pretty nice to me when I went on Around the Horn -- another panelist was a pretty big asshole to me, so I appreciated Jay's reception. But I also recognize that he hasn't treated plenty of media folks nicely, starting with his former Sun-Times colleagues. I'm sure it's not an easy night for the ATH team -- or Mariotti's bosses at AOL.)

Well, Stephen Strasburg is totally effed. I wouldn't be surprised if they shut him down for the rest of the season -- even if his forearm isn't as bad as last night's exit suggested it was.

(Between Stras and A-Rod going to the DL -- plus Youk and Carlos Santana's previous season-ending injuries, plus Prado and Soto's ongoing injuries -- a first-division finish in my fantasy league will be a huge overachievement. I feel like the Red Sox this year.)

CFB AP Preseason Top 25: Alabama is No. 1, for the first time in the preseason since 1978. Basically, if you're under 45, you basically have no recollection of Alabama being preseason No. 1, until now.

For what it's worth, I can't pick Bama No. 1, because my preseason Top 25 is a reflection of how I think the season will end, and I think that Alabama doesn't even win the SEC title, let alone the national title.

Ballot going up soon, but I'm ranking Texas-Boise at 1-2. (Yes, I'm backing off my Boise-as-national-champ theory, but I figure putting them in the national-title game will still put me ahead of 99 percent of people out there.)

NFL Preseason: Big Ben is back, and perfectly capable... Albert Haynesworth obviously doesn't care what Mike Shanahan thinks of him... Well, Sam Bradford isn't particularly good, but at least he got through another game without crumpling.

More MLB:
*More trouble for Lincecum (but a huge get-back-on-track win for the Cards)...

*Nothing symbolizes the O's resurgence under Buck Showalter like the throttling they gave Cliff Lee and the Rangers. (Josh Bell!)

*The winning secret for the Mets: Rain-shortened 6-inning games.

USA Hoops: Wow, Kevin Durant did NOT look good yesterday. World title or bust, fellas.

-- D.S.

Saturday (Very) Quickie

Still mulling over my initial BlogPoll Top 25, with my biggest issue being... No. 1, if you can believe that.

I can't get behind Alabama, because I think they'll lose in the SEC title game to Florida. I obviously can't pick Ohio State. My early choice, Boise State, is unrealistic -- but I might just go with them. The only other obvious choice would be Texas. Winning a national title the year after Colt McCoy leaves would be compelling. (Hmm: Texas over Florida in the national-title game as a repudiation of the Tebow-McCoy Era?) Anyway, still working on it.

*Hmm: Maybe T.O. is in for a big year after all...

*I guess Roger Clemens is going all-in with the denial. (Please note that indicting Clemens was the most bipartisan political effort of the last few years.)

*Mountain West + C-USA? I love that they think if they played a post-title game between the two league champs, that winner would get an automatic BCS-bowl invite. How quaint. (That said, I have long argued that the non-BCS teams should create their own playoff; this would cover most of the good ones. Eh: It was a stronger argument when Utah and BYU were included.)

*It is amazing for golf that golfers have so little regard for Tiger that they are willing to talk trash about him (cc: Rory McIlroy)

*No Serena at the US Open? She's only the biggest draw.

*Did you know the Arena League held its ArenaBowl? And that Spokane beat Tampa for the title? And that the score was 69-57? Who knew? (And there's the problem.)

-- D.S.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Read: Books Coming This Fall

This is the final entry of this year's edition of the Summer Reading Series. Earlier this week: Zirin's "Bad Sports"; Weinreb's "Bigger Than The Game"; and Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk."

Today: Books coming later this fall that I'm looking forward to.

Let me start with a book that isn't coming: It is -- and will probably always will be -- a massive regret that part of this list is not "Untitled Tim Tebow Book" by Dan Shanoff.

It's not like I didn't have my chances. I have/had an extensive outline written. I had 500 pages of notes organized from my experience with -- more than enough source material for a book I didn't want to run much longer than 200 pages. I knew I wanted to write it back in January, and this spring I had plenty of time.

Even without a "real" publisher (the lead times are way too long for a book I wanted to be out by September or October 2010), my intention was to self-publish an e-book. Maybe I still will, but the window is quickly going to close. Maybe I can find the time to have it done by the 2011 NFL Draft or the start of the 2011 NFL season, but I really wanted to have it done... well, by now.

Enough self-flagellation. Nevertheless, on to some talented folks who DID write their books, and these are the ones that I am most excited about reading this fall:

September 21: "How Lucky You Can Be" (Buster Olney)
October 14: "Death to the BCS" (Dan Wetzel et al)
October 26: "The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History" (FreeDarko)

Know any others? Let me know, and I'll add it to my list. No oversights or slights intended.

-- D.S.

08/20 Quickie: Tillman, Spiller, Lilly

Names to Know: Pat Tillman, Roger Clemens, Ted Lilly, CJ Spiller, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, Kyle Orton, Brian Cushing, Rudy Fernandez, Ryan Lochte, BlogPoll and More.

"The Tillman Story" releases today: I have said this before -- the Pat Tillman story is one of the most defining of this era. Everything about this movie screams "must-see." But don't expect it to be anything but painful, frustrating, maddening.

The cover-up -- at so many levels, it is excruciating -- and disinformation campaign is staggering. Everyone involved in abusing and distorting and shaming Tillman's intentions, actions and legacy should live their lives with an ongoing sense of shame.

A few years ago, I called Pat Tillman's story -- and, really, the story of his parents' search for the truth -- one of the Top 5 most powerful and important sports stories of the last century. I stand by that.

Roger Clemens indicted: Far more interesting was the debut of his Twitter feed, which was greeted with general mockery. Why don't the handlers of these rich athletes hire a decent ghostwriter?

Ted Lilly, post-trade to Dodgers, is quickly becoming one of my favorite stories in baseball. Last night was arguably Lilly's best start ever: A 2-hit complete-game shut-out, with 11Ks.

NFL Preseason: CJ Spiller... CJ Spiller... CJ Spiller. (I was shut out of getting Spiller in my morning draft yesterday -- yoinked 3 picks ahead of where I was going to snag him -- but I got him in my evening draft. (BTW: What happened to enthusiasm in Toronto for the NFL? Crowd was 15,000 less than capacity.)

Wes "Welkah" makes 2 catches: Speaking of fantasy drafts, I went long on Tom Brady, taking him in the 2nd round of both of yesterday's drafts. Typically, I wait on drafting QBs until later; then again, typically I stink in fantasy leagues. Trying a new tactic this year.

Percy Harvin hospitalized: Let's hope he's OK. When healthy, one of the most dynamic talents in the league. But rarely healthy. To be competitive, the Vikings need him.

Full weekend of NFL preseason games: As always, the focus is on watching if any key starters get injured, how bad the injury is and what the impact on the fantasy season might be. Plus: Will Big Ben play? Oh, and seeing if Sam Bradford can take a hit. (Yes, I recognize the irony that Tim Tebow was injured on his first big hit in the pros. He will miss this weekend's game; I take solace knowing that Sam Bradford can't even attempt that kind of play, because he would crumple.)

Obligatory Tebow item: The Broncos extended Kyle Orton's deal into 2011. Does that mean that they expect Orton to continue to be the starter next season (implicitly, that Tebow will NOT be the starter next season?) Interesting -- I think most Broncos fans did not see that coming.

(I did NOT draft Tebow in my P&G fantasy league -- certainly not with the No. 1 overall pick, although I joked about it. I was planning to take him in the final, 15th round but KSK's Josh Zerkle took him in the 12th round, apparently to spite me. In my other draft yesterday, I did take Tebow with my final pick, in the 16th round.)

Brian Cushing 4-game suspension upheld by NFL: Didn't expect otherwise.

NBA fines Rudy Fernandez for dissing the NBA: That isn't likely to inspire Rudy to want to stay in the NBA. (Why can't the Blazers trade him to a team that will give him more of a role? I'd love to have him on the Wiz, pairing in the backcourt with Wall. Fernandez is like a less-idiotic version of Nick Young.)

Michael Phelps Watch: Has Ryan Lochte passed him?

BlogPoll Top 25: Last chance for comments and input. I will try to have my first pass at a ballot by the end of the day (tomorrow at the latest -- know it's the weekend, sorry.)

In addition to a BlogPoll post, later today is the final day of my Summer Reading Series, including a confession. Should be posted around noon/1.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone. I'll be posting the usual "Very" Quickies on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Read: Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk"

Day 3 of the annual Summer Reading Series, featuring the best books of the summer for your vacation/beach/commuter/seasonal reading interests...

Today: "Blood, Sweat and Chalk" by Tim Layden

Sometimes, I will read a book and, very quickly, recognize its essential value to fans. Sometimes, I label this "If You Read Just One Book About This, Read This One." That's how I felt about Jeff MacGregor's "Sunday Money."

With some sports, like football or baseball or basketball, there are simply too many great books to say that a single book is definitive. But a book can certainly join the select group of must-reads.

That's how I felt about Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk," the first book I have seen that goes deep into the core Xs-and-Os strategies of football, the fundamental formations and innovations that have defined the game's evolution.

Chapters are relatively short: Each play is described in detail, but equally interesting put into context -- its strategic etymology, its backstory. Layden traces innovation to its roots or, alternatively, profiles the coaches who popularized it. The short chapters are to the book's credit -- it means Layden could work more plays in to the book.

Here is why I put the book among my essential football books: I learned a ton about a subject any good fan SHOULD know but is rarely educated on, whether from the TV broadcast, from books or from magazine articles -- key formations, what they are and where they came from. For whatever reason, TV analysts don't dive nearly enough into the Xs and Os. Layden helps fill the gap.

I feel smarter as a football fan -- more knowledgeable -- for having read the book. This isn't dissimilar from the feeling I got first reading Chris Brown's ground-breaking "Smart Football" blog, which took the sports blogosphere by storm last fall. (Brown remains a must-follow Twitter account, particularly on Saturdays while football games are on.)

Fans are better off when we understand the games more thoroughly -- columnist platitudes are fine, but "I never played the game" only goes so far. Shoring up your understanding of the single-wing or the spread or the wishbone or the zone blitz or the Air Raid will make watching football more enjoyable.

"Blood, Sweat and Chalk" -- part-history, part-chalktalk -- is as accessible as it is entertaining. It is a book I had been looking forward to since I first heard about it a year ago, and it is a worthwhile read to get you prepared for football season.

Coming tomorrow: Looking Ahead to This Fall's Book Releases

-- D.S.

Sponsored Post: Introducing the BFL

I am trying something new here: I was invited to participate in a celebrity-blogger fantasy football league (the "Blogger Football League" or "BFL"), sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Throughout the fall, I am going to write posts with updates about how things are going in the league. These posts will clearly be labeled "Sponsored"; I am also aiming to make them as interesting as any "regular" post you would find here. (So that depends on how "interesting" you usually find them.)

P&G isn't paying me to participate, although the company and its PR team took me and the other league participants out to dinner last night, and the draft is being held at NFL league offices today -- that certainly wouldn't happen without the participation of P&G, a big NFL sponsor. You might have remembered the Jerry Rice thing a few weeks ago; that was part of it.

(Sidebar: For those that have followed the stories from my long-and-winding career, you might remember that I spent a little less than a year as an employee of the NFL -- from the fall of 1997 through the spring of 1998 -- working in the interactive group on; I spent the majority of my effort on Working for the league, however briefly, afforded me one of the great memories of my life: Getting to take my dad and brother to the Super Bowl in San Diego -- John Elway's first title. Today's trip to the league office will be my first trip back since I left. I believe I have an old NFL business card lying in a file box somewhere...)

I was enthusiastic to participate in the league for a few reasons, not the least of which because I have been and remain excited about how marketers and editorially focused companies can work together innovatively; I liked the commitment P&G was making to experimenting -- I felt like it was a good moment to engage in some experimentation of my own.

Again, I will always be entirely clear with you about what posts are part of a sponsorship, rather than the regularly scheduled editorial -- but I will also try my best, regardless of whether the post is "regular" or sponsored, to keep the content quality at a level you have come to expect here. It doesn't do anyone -- me, you, P&G -- any good if I offer weak efforts.

OK, so apologies if this post came across as "heavy" -- let me end by lightening it up:

The league draft is today. Last night I was given the No. 1 overall pick (and the dreaded back-to-back in a snake involving 12 teams, which means my next pick after No. 1 is No's 24 and 25. Yikes.

But when I "won" the 1st pick, I immediately joked that I was going to take Tim Tebow No. 1 overall. After the jokes subsided, I actually considered it, for real -- after all, what would earn the league more media coverage than having a guy who took Tim Tebow as the No. 1 overall pick?

Then I realized that the vast majority of the coverage would be mockery -- most of it unpleasant. For you or readers at TimTeblog or around the blogosphere, me picking Tebow would be an amusing inside joke; for everyone else, it is "idiot picks Tim Tebow first overall in fantasy draft."

It's a fine line between hilarity and humiliation. I'm going to take Chris Johnson first and presume there will be plenty of opportunities to reach for Tebow late. Some might say that drafting him at all is a "reach" -- perhaps even a humiliation of its own kind.

By the way, everyone in the league is affiliated with a P&G brand. I was assigned Old Spice, in part because I was blown away by the amazing series of near-real-time web videos the brand did a few weeks ago -- not to mention the innovative way they created the "Swagger" rating on Madden '11. In fact, that -- plus this post from Kotaku about it -- inspired my team name: "99-Rated Swagger." (Read the Kotaku post to understand the joke.)

Speaking of the videos, I will certainly make it my goal to have the Old Spice guy (Isaiah Mustafa) do a homemade video for me. Hopefully it will start with something like, "Hello, ladies... look at your man... now back to me... now back at your man... now back to me..."

Anyway, thanks for sticking with this "kickoff" post. Going forward, the posts might link back to this one for background, but otherwise, as Aqua Teen Hunger Force might say, I'm not going to explain the plot.

I really should draft Tim Tebow No. 1 overall.... No no... must... resist: Chris Johnson it is.

08/19 Quickie: Lee, WAC, Knocks, Melo

Names to Know: CJ Spiller, Rex Ryan, Antonio Cromartie, Derrek Lee, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Jason Heyward, WAC, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Tebow, Tim Layden, BlogPoll and More.

NFL Tonight: Colts/Bills (let's see how CJ Spiller does as The Guy) and Patriots/Falcons. (Nope, no Favre updates here...)a

"Hard Knocks" Watch: A lot less F-bombing from Rex Ryan -- I'm quite sure he didn't curse less; the show's editors chose to take them out after last week's reactions -- but that's not the point. If cursing is who he is, then I'm with Ryan: Who is anyone else (Tony Dungy) to $%^&-ing judge?

(UPDATE: I'm sorry -- this Antonio Cromatrie thing is blowing up.)

MLB Notes: Huge sweep for the Rays over the Rangers in a preview of what will happen if they meet in the playoffs... Back in April, would you have believed that it would take until August 18 for Joe Mauer to hit a HR at Target Field?... J-Hey: Walk-off....

Derrek Lee traded: Seems a bit awkward that Lee's first game with the Braves will be at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, but at least Cubs fans will be able to give him a proper cheer for his career.

BYU/WAC/MWC Madness: It's like a poor man's Big 12 situation from earlier this summer. The latest: The MWC is raiding the WAC for Fresno St and Nevada -- and potentially keeping BYU in the fold? I'd still like to see BYU go indie in football, if only for the novelty. (It's a tough blow to the WAC if the MWC takes two of its best football teams.)

Carmelo likes Houston, Brooklyn: Could either the Rockets or the Nets come up with a trade package to satisfy the Nuggets? Might be a stretch for the Rockets; that's the downside of Daryl Morey's system of finding undervalued players.

As for the Nets, this is huge: They were shut out of the Summer of 2010 free-agent frenzy and are desperate for a Face of the franchise as the team looks to move to Brooklyn in 2 years. I'd simply offer Derrick Favors -- and if the Nuggets were smart, they would jump on that.

(Carmelo might be fumbling this a bit -- although you'd think Nuggets fans would rather get something for him now than see him leave them empty-handed, LeBron-style -- but I love that he recognizes the upside of the Nets. Pair him with Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and a Top 5 Lottery pick next year and the Nets have a solid core.)

Obligatory Tebow item: Injured?! Remember that TD he scored as time expired on Sunday night. Yeah, that might have injured him a bit in the ribs. He probably won't play in Denver's 2nd preseason game, but it's not so bad that if it was a regular-season game, he wouldn't play.

Media: re-designed their top nav bar and I really like it.

BTW: I enjoy Mark Schlabach's annual "What's Hot (and Not)" list for college football each August, but let's take a trip in the way-back machine to's (ahem) original "What's Hot/What's Not" list for college football... from 2002. Check it out if you want to feel old.

More CFB: Don't forget to weigh in on my initial BlogPoll Top 25 ballot.

Coming later this morning: A small announcement about a new sponsorship relationship I'm experimenting with here.

(Nominally related, I have not one but two fantasy drafts today: One related to the sponsorship and one for the league I've been in for years. Will I draft Tebow? In either? Both? At all?)

Coming at 1-ish: Day 3 of my Summer Reading Series, Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk." (See yesterday's: Weinreb's Bigger Than the Game)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Help!

It's that time of year: My first BlogPoll Top 25 ballot is due on Monday. Would love your input in the comments. Let's say we use the traditional rankings as a starting point, at least for the purposes of arguing who is overrated, who is underrated and who isn't rated (but should be).

Keep in mind my criteria for the first week: How the season will end. After the first week, I mostly vote based on how teams have played so far this season, not their potential.

I will try to update the comments as frequently as I can, so we can have a real discussion going. And I will try to take the comments and build out my first draft by Friday, for discussion on Friday and all weekend, before submitting the final version of the ballot on Sunday night.

Read: Weinreb's "Bigger Than the Game"

Day 2 of the annual Summer Reading Series, featuring the best books of the summer for your vacation/beach/commuter/seasonal reading interests...

Today: "Bigger Than The Game" by Michael Weinreb

There are a handful of books that I have always wanted to write. One of them had to do with my longstanding theory that the mid-1980s are the fulcrum in the modern history of sports. In fact, I even had a specific year in mind: 1986.

It isn't a coincidence that I feel this way, given that the mid-80s were the critical, pivotal moment of my life as a sports fan -- ages 10-15, when you hit the sports fan equivalent of puberty, truly discovering a complex personal relationship with sports and finding your identity as a fan. In 1986, I turned 13 -- becoming a man, according to Hebrew tradition and according to the life-cycle of sports-fan development.

Michael Weinreb (who previously wrote the terrific "The Kings of New York") and I are just about the same age -- and so we came of age as fans at the same time. We both experienced the mid-1980s -- 1986 -- in roughly the same way, at least as far as being wide-eyed sports consumers of transcendent (and alliteravely brilliant) sports storylines like the '85 Bears, Bo Jackson, Brian Bosworth, Len Bias.

That is why his new book "Bigger Than The Game," precisely about that incredible moment in sports in the middle of the 1980s, is particularly meaningful to me -- a book I have always wanted to see written, put together brilliantly by not just an amazing writer and reporter but by someone who I would call not just a contemporary, but a more talented stand-in for... well, me.

*I grew up a HUGE Chicago Bears fan: Particularly for a kid growing up in Redskins-mad DC, the '85 season was triumphalism at its finest. (Did I have a William Perry replica jersey? Yes.)

*I grew up a HUGE Len Bias fan: He was my favorite basketball player; his death remains one of the most vivid sports-related memories of my youth.

*As for Bo and Boz, they were larger-than-life characters -- myths-come-to-life, really -- dominating the national sports landscape. Weinreb's reporting illuminates them.

That isn't to say that if you aren't in your mid- to late-30s, you won't appreciate this book. If you are in your 40s (or older), you may have an even more vivid recollection of the era; Weinreb's reporting will take you back to your college years (or beyond). If you are in your 20s or teens, you may not directly recall the time, but if you have any interest in sports history, this is the defining book of that transformative decade.

It is a wonderful book -- a classic Book I Wish I Had Written. I am extremely glad it was Weinreb who wrote it.

Coming tomorrow: Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk."

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

08/18 Quickie: Favre, Thomson, BYU

Today's Names to Know: Bobby Thomson, K-Rod, JR Moehringer, the Phillies, Jim Thome, BYU, ALS, Michael Weinreb and, of course....

Brett Favre.

I don't want to have to write any more. I don't need to say any more. That is the best service I could provide all of the Favre-weary. God knows we'll have more than we can handle in the 4 months ahead. Stay strong, friends.

(Personally, I like Tim Carmody's series of tweets -- found on Twitter at @tcarmody -- comparing Brett Favre to the Web, which were collected by Jason Kottke. Carmody doesn't write about sports often, but he is one of my favorite Twitter accounts to follow.)

On to more interesting topics:

*RIP, Bobby Thomson. I know that the Mazeroski HR usually takes a place a notch ahead of the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" as the greatest home run in baseball history, but for my money -- and my impossible East Coast bias -- Thomson's "Shot" was the greatest.

Your must-read on the subject, among others: Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski.

(And another one: Red Smith's original column off the game. It obviously lacks the nuance of a Quickie-esque analysis: "Greatest. Home Run. Ever.")

*JR Moehringer's GQ profile of LeBron: Yesterday was full of Q&A's with Moehringer (who ghost-wrote that incredible Agassi autobiography and wrote the even-more-incredible "Tender Bar" memoir), but I got to read the entire article: It is both fascinating and fair; LeBron seems utterly clueless and utterly unconcerned about The Decision -- or, more accurately, its aftermath. I really liked AJ Daulerio's "liner notes" on Deadspin about it.

*Mets un-guarantee K-Rod's contract: Ouch. (And baseball execs gets a glimpse of what life would be like if they had the brutal -- and brutally efficient -- contract system of the NFL.) You can guarantee this is going to be appealed by the union.

*Your Wild Card leaders: Philly. (Oswalt over Zito) I don't understand the tough talk from Philly players and Charlie Manuel about being focused on winning the division. Of any sport, baseball is the most "just get in the playoffs, any way you can." Taking sole possession of the Wild Card lead by beating your closest rival for the spot IS a big deal.

*Walk-off Watch: Of Jim Thome's many (many) home runs, this one must have felt sweet: The walk-off HR to carry his new team (Minnesota) over his old one (Chicago). In the middle of a pennant race, no less.

*Conference re-alignment: Is BYU going to leave the Mountain West for football to become a "football independent" (with other sports affiliated with the WAC)? Looks like it's a done deal. Seems like strange timing, given that the MWC is about to add powerhouse Boise State to replace the departing Utah. That's a big loss for the MWC. (I love that the official Colorado State football Twitter feed basically broke the story.)

*NCAA honcho wants the NBA to adopt MLB-style draft-eligibility rules. How about this: Let players into the draft after their senior year of high school, period. Then, let market forces work things out -- as they did perfectly well before the one-year age-limit was put in place. The NBA will be fine (it will reward smarter teams with better scouting). And college hoops will be fine; as long as there is a bracket in March, it doesn't matter who specifically plays college hoops.

*Obligatory Tebow item: He didn't run practice-ending sprints yesterday? GASP! (Honestly, when I saw the hit he took on that game-ending TD, my first thought was that he broke a rib or was otherwise injured, because his reaction was not enthusiastic, but subdued.)

*Athlete head injuries are connected to Lou Gehrig's Disease: As if you needed another reason not to let your kid play football.

*Coming later today: Day 2 of my Summer Reading series, featuring Michael Weinreb's "Bigger Than The Game" -- on the short list of Books I Always Wanted to Write (but am happy to have seen written by such a brilliant reporter).

-- D.S.

Very Special Anniversary

Nine years ago today, the basis for this story: The woman who I had been dating for all of two weeks arrived in Italy to join me for a few days on my three-week vacation to Europe. "Eat, Pray, Love" has nothing on Mrs. Quickie. Fun story if you've never heard it.

Summer Read: Zirin's Bad Sports

Day 1 of the annual Summer Reading Series, featuring the best books of the summer for your vacation/beach/commuter/seasonal reading interests...

Today: "Bad Sports" by Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is the conscience of sports media -- and one of the most essential writers of the genre.

That's because Zirin talks about the things the rest of us -- the sports punditocracy -- won't or can't, at least without the necessary gravitas, let alone the necessary command of both fact and nuance that are vital to talking about the thorniest issues in sports.

More than anything, Zirin is willing to live at the intersection of sports and politics -- brutal terrain for a few reasons, not the least of which is that fans, for the most part, hate mixing sports and politics. (That, and fans can agree on a team allegiance but otherwise hate each other's political leanings.)

But, again, Zirin's work is altogether necessary; almost every sportswriter who attempts to write about politics or socioeconomic issues as they relate to sports ends up failing in some essential way: They (or their outlets) are beholden to corporate interests; they lack a fundamental understanding of the issues (or, more importantly, the historical and social context of those issues); or they simply cannot summon the substance to match their own hysterics.

Or, more often than not, they claim they "can't touch" the issue. It's just too controversial -- which probably means it's important. Too important to be left in the hands of shallow thinkers.

Because of this fundamental unwillingness or inability to write about these issues, even on issues of populism -- as with Zirin's highly recommended new book "Bad Sports," about how corporate interests (particularly at the ownership level) can undermine sports for fans -- most writers lack the foundation to present cohesive and compelling arguments.

That is why it is so important that we have Zirin. And why it is so important that Zirin -- in addition to his writing at his own site ( or The Nation -- takes the time to put all of these compelling arguments in a single place like "Bad Sports," for fans to grasp the larger issues at hand. (Check out a good Q&A with Zirin that dives into the big themes of the book. And here is another.)

It isn't necessarily the things we want to talk about -- like this week's on-field NFL storyline or trade rumors or any number of other issues that dominate sports-talk radio and talking-head shows. It is the things we need to talk about -- that we should be talking about.

By the way: That's not to say that I agree with everything Zirin has to say. By nature, I am a populist with commercial leanings -- that is, I'm not just about putting fans first, but I think it makes the most business sense when owners and marketers put fans first, too.

And with the obvious exception of the ownership-political-developer axis related to stadium funding -- which dwarfs most marketing spending, btw -- I think many corporate folks, from the top on down, are increasingly recognizing how important it is to engage and empower fans with a new respect and spirit of collaboration and transparency. It is a net benefit for fans. Yes, there are the Donald Sterlings of the world -- but there are also the Ted Leonsis and Mark Cuban-style owners illuminating a new path for owners.

But the fact remains that these thorny, sports/political issues lack a natural home in sports: Political media find sports unnecessary; sports media fear alienating fans, sponsors and owners.

That's why I am so glad that Dave Zirin has made himself an indispensable part of the sports-fan experience, through his insightful takes on the latest news -- and through his challenging new book, "Bad Sports."

Coming tomorrow: Michael Weinreb's "Bigger Than the Game"

(Update: Just saw that Yahoo's terrific Dan Wetzel has produced his own summer-reading list. We've only got one crossover, for better or worse.)

-- D.S.

Monday, August 16, 2010

08/17 Quickie: Harper, K-Rod, Melo

Today's Names to Know: Bryce Harper, K-Rod, Max Scherzer, Shawn Marcum, Eli Manning, Brian Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Christian LeMay, Tim Tebow, Pro Football Talk, Jason Whitlock and More.

Don't blame Bryce Harper for taking until 11:59 p.m.
on a midnight deadline to sign his deal with the Nats. Blame MLB for having a deadline that isn't, say, 6 p.m. Or, instead of months after the draft, a few weeks, which would allow signees to get developmental experience faster.

All that said, contract negotiations are rarely something fans ultimately care about. For Nats fans' purposes, they have locked up (at a highest-ever cost for a non-pitcher) the best hitting prospect in years -- a perfect running mate for Stephen Strasburg and yet another rookie who will fill seats and get the team attention, no matter how they are doing in the standings.

K-Rod: From bad to worse. Typical Mets luck that when K-Rod allegedly smacked his father-in-law, he tore a ligament in his hand (throwing hand) while doing it. His season is over, but the mockery has just begun.

Cliff Lee vs. David Price: Lee pitched further into the game, but it turned out to be long enough to let the Rays finally get to him. Tampa won the game between likely playoff teams. They'll play another good one today: Tommy Hunter vs. Matt Garza.

First Brian Bullington... now Max Scherzer? The Yankees are struggling with super-high-draft-picks who have traditionally struggled. The Red Sox will undoubtedly try to sign (or perhaps merely find) Todd Van Poppel and Brien Taylor for their rotation next year.

Shawn Marcum!

The lasting image from the Giants-Jets game (or is that "Jets-Giants"... in NYC, you can never know who you're going to offend) isn't the new stadium, but Eli Manning's bleeding noggin. He'll be fine, and the Jets 2nd-stringers will give Rex Ryan plenty to bleep about on the next episode of Hard Knocks.

Brian Westbrook signs with the 49ers: He hadn't attracted much attention, and then the 49ers' RB depth imploded and it suddenly became a good situation. (Whither Anthony Dixon? Nowhere, apparently. Glad I didn't do my fantasy draft yesterday.)

Carmelo Anthony ain't gonna re-sign with the Nuggets: We have all seen this coming for months -- since his wedding, since he hemmed and hawed about their 3Y/$65M contract offer, since he recognized that his fellow superstars were all bolting for super-teams.

So what next? The Nuggets would be wise to trade Melo now -- or perhaps the trade deadline. It would be nice if it was to a team that Carmelo would be interested in signing with as a free agent (say, the Knicks or Wizards), but the Nuggets have a bigger problem: How to get back even dimes on the dollar for Melo's talent. Who, exactly, would the Knicks be able to trade? At least the Nets could offer something like Devin Harris and even Derrick Favors.

The thing is: Carmelo could simply play out the string for the season, then leave Denver hanging next summer -- not unlike the way LeBron and Bosh played it. It's not his problem; it's Denver's. (I have to say: As a Wizards fan, I really really really hope they clear enough cap room to make a play for Carmelo, who I think could be swayed by the Wiz's proximity to Melo's beloved Baltimore. Maybe I'm just engaging in wish fulfillment.)

Tiger Watch: I can't see how Corey Pavin doesn't pick Tiger for the Ryder Cup team. And when we look back, playing for the U.S. will be the resurrection of Tiger's career.

Fascinating: A top high school senior quarterback is skipping his final season of high school to spend the year (or the fall, if he's enrolling early) preparing for college football. Now, Christian LeMay is doing that because a suspension forced him to, but given the recent trend of players skipping their final high school semester to enroll early at college, why wouldn't top players -- at least more of them -- who have made a commitment heading into their senior years skip that year entirely to focus on preparing for college?

(This isn't far off from top college players skipping, say, their junior season to spend an entire year getting ready for the NFL Draft. I wonder what that would do to their draft stock? On the one hand, they lose out on "live" reps; on the other hand, they can focus specifically on developing NFL skills -- see the way most QBs ultimately have to work with pre-draft tutors to fix mechanics and the leap from simple college playbook to complex NFL schemes.)

Obligatory Tebow Item: They need to call him "Tim Pageviews," because bloggers and sites can't resist writing stories about him, they get so many people clicking on anything Tebow. Yesterday, there was that oddball story of the two media folks (a reporter and a photographer) who asked Tebow for his autograph after the Bengals game. And then you get stuff like today's massive feature on Tebow in USA Today.

Media: Here's a dumb one -- that Arkansas radio person who was fired for wearing a Florida hat to a Petrino press conference. Unless she was being ironic, it wasn't the hat itself that should be considered a fireable offense, but that anyone would ever think that was a good idea.

Jason Whitlock leaving the Kansas City Star: This has been a long time coming, as Whitlock's profile has catapulted from the provincial to the national. (Something similar happened to KC Star columnist Joe Posnanski -- as well as KC Star baseball writer Jeff Passan and feature writer Wright Thompson.) I have to believe Whitlock will end up at a national sports site -- perhaps, where he currently writes on the side (but as's leading draw)? He is also a candidate to host a national radio show. I'm sure he already has something lined up.

So the founders are launching their version of Rivals 2.0 -- "," a network of team-focused sites, starting with leading college teams. Sounds familiar. They promise the company will be even more extensive than Rivals, both in terms of team coverage and use of social media tools. They are also putting in $6M of their own money, which gives them a ton of runway. (Hell, for $6M, they could make compelling offers to the Top 20 bloggers who write for other team-focused online-sports networks.)

More inside-baseball sports-media news: is re-launching its site next month with a focus on the ProFootballTalk network of sites they have built. has been smart: They have used PFT has a hub to create a Yahoo-like network of nationally focused sport blogs, which can then be promoted from high-traffic entry points like

(Of course, any relaunch is a drop in the bucket compared to the potentially massive collaboration between and its presumptive acquirers from Comcast.)

Coming later today: Day 1 (of 4!) of Summer Reading Week.

-- D.S.

Quickie Readers Football Pick 'Ems

Pick 'em sign-up is here! I have set up the annual Daily Quickie Readers "pick 'em" groups for the upcoming NFL and college football seasons.

NFL pick 'em group here.

College football pick 'em group here.

In case you don't do it now, just search "Daily Quickie Readers" -- as usual -- and no password necessary.

Best. Pick 'em Group. Ever.

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

08/15 Quickie: PGA, Tebow, Slo-No

Names to Know: Dustin Johnson, Tim Tebow, Anthony Dixon, Kevin Slowey, Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum, Brian Bullington, Kevin Durant, Brett Sloppy and More.

"Grounding the club" is the new "jumped on the emergency slide."

Well, it could have been worse for the PGA
: Dustin Johnson's 2-stroke penalty that cost him a place in the playoff could have cost him an outright win.

But it was a pretty bad evening for the PGA: The rules are clear, but the context was fuzzy -- or sandy. Most agree that Johnson should have asked for a clarification, but the optics -- all those fans standing around Johnson in what didn't look very much like a bunker -- doesn't favor the PGA. They look like sticklers who jobbed a deserving player.

As for the PGA Champ Martin Kaymer himself, in other contexts, this slew of first-time major winners would be a great thing for the sport -- more new talents winning titles.

In the case of golf, though, it is awful; the sport needs dynastic super-names winning the major titles. Tiger would be the top preference, obviously, but Phil would work, too. But all these relative no-names just dilutes the star power and mainstream appeal.

(Or, as Mike "Ken Tremendous" Schur tweeted: "Golf tournaments aren't as exciting when none of the leaders is a Ambien-addicted quad-ethnic illicit-bareback-sex-addled killing machine.")

Tim Tebow's Debut: Not bad! Something for everyone:For the fans (pretty good completion percentage, plus that TD as the clock expired) and for the haters (quibbles about his mechanics, plus the idea that Tebow was going against 3rd-stringers).

Here is the upshot: Tebow turned an otherwise forgettable preseason game into An Event that everyone was talking about. In the absence of a playoff season in Denver, it's a pretty good consolation prize to be relevant, because everyone is so interesting in seeing how Tebow does.

More thoughts from the first full weekend of NFL Preseason games:

*What does it say that the dominant reaction to Sam Bradford's debut was: "Well, he got sacked a bunch and didn't crumple?" (It says that he is REALLY likely to crumple at some point.)

*Fantasy: Ryan Matthews likely cemented himself as a 2nd-round RB; Anthony Dixon has gone from ADP afterthought to what I imagine will be a Top 100 average draft position.

*Could not feel worse for Stafon Johnson.

*Can't wait for these games to actually mean something. It only gets worse from here, until Kickoff Week.

Quickie Vocab: "Slo-no." Definition: When the manager removes a pitcher in the middle of throwing a no-hitter.

If you were the manager, would you pull your starter while he's working on a no-hitter? Here's the thing: You're paid to win the game(s), not position your pitchers for individual glory in the history books.

And so you have to give the manager some latitude to win the game, but at least importantly, looking ahead to what the pitch counts, etc., might mean for future starts down the stretch for that pitcher. (Slowey was at 106 pitches when he was pulled.)

Does it suck for Kevin Slowey's chances for joining the history books as someone pitching a no-hitter? Totally.

Then again, given his pitch count, it was entirely uncertain that Slowey would have been able to keep things hitless for another 6 outs -- and we have no idea what the strain of pitches 107 through, say, 130-150 would have done to his arm for the meaningful starts he has to make down the stretch.

Amazing Albert Pujols Milestone: He becomes the first player in baseball history to hit at least 30 HR in each of his first 10 seasons. I don't know anyone who doesn't respect Pujols as much or more than any player in the league, but I'm not sure he is given the credit for being -- in real-time -- one of the Top 20 (Top 10?) hitters in the history of baseball.

Has Tim Lincecum lost it already? Wow. Keep that in mind as we start to think about career-long dominance for folks like Steven Strasburg. What if we are now living in a reality where "peak years" means 2-3 (rather than 5-6) and flame-outs happen before you hit 30?

(This isn't unlike the new relativity of dynasties I introduced in the Daily Quickie years, where back-to-back league championships now qualifies as a dynasty, because things move that quickly. It's the Moore's Law or Zuckerberg's Law of sports. Shanoff's Law: Increasing levels of parity and efficiency means that definitions of dynasty are cut in half every decade.)

Brian Bullington!

Tonight's Best: Cliff Lee vs. David Price. ALDS Game 1 preview?

USA Hoops: Nothing wrong with a 31-point win, led by Kevin Durant. But much like the Redeem Team, anything less than winning the world championship will be considered a massive failure. (Don't buy into the "what an inexperienced, young team!" stuff; they are the most talented roster of the world championships, by a wide margin.)

Terrible tragedy in that off-road car race in southern California. Will probably result in serious crack-down on the fringe levels of car racing.

Coming this week, starting tomorrow and running all week: The annual Summer Reading Series, featuring 3 books I have recently read, enjoyed and recommend for your summer-reading pleasure.

-- D.S.

Sunday (Very) Quickie

No Big Ben.

Yes, A-Rod.

Ryan Matthews just vaulted up fantasy draft charts. (Meanwhile: Will Legedu Naanee become Phil Rivers' go-to WR? That has some big fantasy value.)

Sam Bradford was not very good, but let's call it a success that his shoulder didn't pop out when it was breathed on by NFL D-linemen.

Meanwhile, Jake Delhomme had a terrific debut for the Browns. (Pete Carroll won his debut with the Seahawks, too.)

Injury Watch: Stafon Johnson, with a dislocated ankle? Oh, no. The worst news, for a player so horribly injured last year in college. Can only hope for his full recovery.

NFL Preseason Game of the Day: Tim Tebow's pro debut vs. the 85/TO Bengals.

Here come the SF Giants. (And, staying in the NL West, Ted Lilly keeps on winning for LA.)

Not expecting Tiger to make some kind of run today at the PGA.

Have two fantasy drafts coming up later this week. Probably time to start researching.

Meanwhile, also coming this week: The annual Summer Reading Series, featuring THREE books I've recently read that are worth your summer read.

-- D.S.