Friday, September 17, 2010

09/17 Quickie: Jets-Pats, AZ-IA, Giants

Today's Names to Know: Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan, Michael Vick, Iowa-Arizona, Urban Meyer, Denard Robinson, Texas Tech fans, SF Giants, Reggie Bush, Derek Jeter, Black Eyed Peas, Ike Davis, Sue Bird and More.

After a week of "Ines-anity,"
I'm really looking forward to the weekend, when we can get back to arguing with each other about game results.

The NFL weekend is headlined by Jets-Pats (I'll predict a Pats romp); a likely Michael Vick start for the Eagles; and an awesome Sunday night match-up between the Giants and Colts.

The CFB weekend has a ton of intriguing "prove-it" games -- Iowa-Arizona is probably my favorite (I'm taking Arizona), but throw in Baylor-TCU, Texas-Texashhh Tech, Air Force-Oklahoma, Arkansas-Georgia, Florida at Tennessee and even ND-Mich St (in primetime).

CFB Picks: I'll take the ranked team in all of the Top 25 matchups (except AZ>IA), but if you are looking for an unranked-over-ranked Upset Special, I'm intrigued by Baylor over TCU and the end of the BCS-crashing-the-national-title-game meme.

Oh, and Denard Robinson going crazy on UMass. He turns an otherwise lame game into must-track.

Florida, Urban Meyer under scrutiny: I'm impossibly biased here. It is odd to try to argue that Meyer runs a disciplined program when so many of his players get arrested -- it is also hard to argue when he is so willing to give them second chances. I think he's right to be offended that people want to label the program "dirty" and that there is nothing to indicate -- aside from individual issues -- that he is doing anything but running the program as a whole the right way.

In theory, the Texas Tech student government idea to have the crowd be totally silent when Texas takes the field is kind of intriguing. In practice, it makes no sense and is doomed to sputter.

MLB Pennant Races: The Giants are now in 1st place in the NL West. Is that it for the Padres? Hardly, but you have to believe they feel that tickle in their throat.

In the AL, it is easy to keep a focus on the battle at the top of the AL East between the Yankees and Rays, but please note -- as reader Will M did to me -- that the Twins are rolling.

Oh, SURE, Reggie Bush: Returning the Heisman doesn't make you look guilty at all. The good news is that we all have been assuming he took the cash for years.

Jeter Cheater, Cont'd: Loved Rob Neyer's take on this. Reprising my take: It wasn't gritty gamesmanship; it was unfair deception -- lying -- that has no place in the game.

Entertainment: Black Eyed Peas for Super Bowl halftime? Really? The NFL was actually on kind of a roll with decent halftime acts. This is playing it as safe as it gets.

Site design tweak update: No favors with your voting -- nearly as many hated the switch to Ariel font from Georgia as liked it, with most of you not really caring one way or the other.

(I actually had gone into the vote saying to myself that if 20 percent of you hated the new font, I'd leave the old one. Can we live with it for the weekend and make a final determination on Monday?)

Enjoy your weekend. Easy fast, to my folks observing Yom Kippur.

(On a related note, for someone who pays attention to Jewish athletes, how did I not know that Ike Davis is Jewish? His mom is Jewish and while he isn't observant, he considers himself "culturally Jewish," and is actually letting his mom decide for him whether he should play tomorrow night during the holiday.)

Speaking of all-tie great Jewish athletes, congrats to Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm on winning the WNBA title.

Big week next week. Rest up.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

09/16 Quickie: Jeter, Tulo, VY, Ariel

As you've surely noticed, I am experimenting with changing the blog's font from Georgia -- which it has been since the blog launched 4 years ago -- to Ariel, which is a little more in line with current design trends toward sans-serif fonts. What do you think? Take 2 seconds and fill out the poll on the right: Like/Dislike/Ambivalent.

In one interpretation, Derek Jeter is a "gamer" for pretending that the ball hit his hand when, in reality, it hit the bottom of his bat. In another interpretation, he showcased poor sportsmanship hardly worthy of The Captain.

In the end, it all comes down to whether you are a Yankee fan/Jeter slurper, in which case you see this as the former; if you aren't, you think it was a minor form of cheating. Check out the video here.

(That the Yankees took a 7th-inning lead on the Rays -- with whom they are battling for not just a division title but home-field advantage in the playoffs -- after Granderson hit a HR immediately after Jeter took his base seemed cruel, right up until the bottom half of the inning, when the Rays came up with a 2-run HR of their own -- Dan Johnson's second HR of the game -- to seal the W. With the win, the Rays took back 1st place in the AL East -- and a new layer was added to this nouveau rivalry.)

MLB Stud: Troy Tulowitzki, who had 2 HR and 7 RBI in the Rockies damn-near-must-win over the Padres, to finally take one in that series. Time to bust out my Tulo T-shirt jersey.

Milestones: Jose Bautista tied the Blue Jays franchise record for HRs in a season -- 47, tying George Bell in 1987... wow, I remember him in that season. I was 14. Cripes, I'm old.

The Heisman Trust is lame for not awarding the now-vacated 2005 Heisman to the runner-up, Vince Young. Cripes, it's just an award; it is the Miss America title of college football.

(VY says "Why would I want it?" Well, among other reasons, because you earned it and -- like it or not -- "Heisman winner" IS a big deal, even for a college football immortal like Young.)

The latest BlogPoll Top 25 is out, and of the 30 folks who gave Boise State a No. 1 ranking last week (including me), all 30 abandoned the Broncos. They plummeted to 5th.

College Football Tonight: Cincy at NC State. We're pretty far from my preseason prediction that Cincy was a Top 20 team. But NC State can edge close to the Top 25 with a win.

Mark Ingram will play for Alabama on Saturday versus Duke, at which point it will be even more obvious that Trent Richardson is the superior running back for the Tide.

Is Vincent Jackson headed to the Vikings? Apparently, it comes down to whether he has to sit out only 3 games for his "banned substance" suspension -- or 6 games, if an arbitrator says he owes the Chargers another 3 games sitting out because he is "roster exempt." (The theory is that if the arbitrator says V-Jax only has to sit out 3 games if he is traded, the Chargers will find a willing taker for him -- which everyone assumes is the Vikings. I don't understand why the Bolts still wouldn't find a willing taker even if Jackson gets a 6-game ban.)

LeBron is not popular, and -- in fact -- is the 6th-most disliked player in sports. This should come as no surprise to anyone.

I love Mark Cuban's superlative reaction, saying that LeBron's "Decision" was "the largest public humiliation in sports history," costing LeBron a hundreds of millions in market value.

Everyone assumes Erick Dampier will sign with the Heat, but it sounds like the Rockets are going to be aggressive about trying to claim him for themselves.

Huge congratulations to Clay Travis and his wife on the birth of their second child, Lincoln. (Presume he was not named for late-80s/early-90s Tennessee DB Jeremy Lincoln.)

Steve Martin is on Twitter. Yes.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sponsored Post: BFL Week 1 Dominance

Your weekly update on my travails in the Blogger Football League, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. For background, see this intro post.

It seems fitting that my team ("99 Percent Swagger") is tied to the Old Spice brand just when Old Spice introduces a psychedelic new ad campaign featuring Ray Lewis flying on a life-sized Raven.

It also seems fitting that after more than a decade of fantasy football mediocrity, I had -- in this league, in Week 1 -- perhaps my finest fantasy week of all time.

Let's review my starting roster, and you will understand why: Chris Johnson (selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft)... Tom Brady (selected with the final pick of the 2nd round)... and... well, with those two, it doesn't really matter, does it?

As it happens, I also started LaDainian -- really? -- and at WR: Garcon (dud), Floyd (dud) and Austin (stud), along with Antonio Gates (stud), Mason Crosby (stud) and the Bengals D (dud).

With that lineup, I led the league in scoring, nearly doubling up my opponent (managed by Fanhouse/CBSSports's Will Brinson, who in a bit of tough timing was tasked with creating the league write-up this week.)

This puts me in a rare position -- is my team actually kind of awesome? If Johnson and Brady and Miles and Gates (and even Crosby) healthy all year, can I win the league with 5 studs?

Looking ahead to Week 2, I play Matt Sebek's "Sweaty Ditkas," who won Week 1 with 80 points and features Brees, Best, Ronnie Brown and both Cards WRs (Breaston and Fitz).

The key match-up for me is Tom Brady vs. the Jets D. On the one hand, the Jets D is awesome; on the other hand, you know Brady and Belichick want to light them up. Motivation!

Anyway, I'm off to a start that is good enough to make me ask when things will inevitably go off the rails. I'm guessing Week 8 or so.

Click here to check out P&G's "Take It To The House" page on Facebook, which will keep you updated on all the happenings in the league.

The P&G Blogger Fantasy League (BFL) is a group of 12 online sports folks competing on the fantasy platform for the chance to win a donation for a local charity, furnished by P&G. The NFL Entities have not offered or sponsored the sweepstakes in anyway.

09/15 Quickie: Sainz, Bush, MLB Races

Today's Names to Know: Ines Sainz, Clinton Portis, Reggie Bush, Kris Jenkins, Ryan Grant, Michael Vick, Jorge Posada, Jon Garland, Cole Hamels, David Ortiz, Denard Robinson, Chris Rainey and More.

Ines Sainz scandal:
This is -- or at least should be -- very very simple. No reporter -- M/F, beat/guest -- should be treated with any level of sexual harassment. I appreciate the handful of thoughful, nuanced opinions, but largely my message is: Get over that, misogynists.

Clinton Portis apologizes for creepy, leery quotes about Sainz: With so much scrutiny on the issue, this was not unlike throwing up "finger guns" in a pre-game huddle in the wake of a gun investigation. (Not nearly as bad, but certainly a level of clueless that boggles the mind.) I'd be willing to bet that Portis is sorry for the commotion, but not for the underlying sentiment.

Reggie Bush forfeits 2005 Heisman: OK, seriously, what has to happen to give the Trophy to Vince Young, who so clearly deserved it? (And I'll credit Bush for a nifty bit of p.r. jujitsu, neutering the sentiment against him and avoiding the ignominy of having the award stripped from him.)

Broncos trade for Laurence Maroney: Creating the unstoppable Moreno-Maroney backfield. Cue your "Oh yeah!" (Maroney famously has a Kool-Aid Man fetish.)

Packers RB Ryan Grant done for the year, Jets DT Kris Jenkins done for the year: Both are painful losses. My question is: Which one hurts his team more? The Jets' D is solid without Jenkins -- see 2009; the Packers' offense is among the best in football, but Grant was a big reason for that... and replacement Brandon Jackson is no Grant. Verdict: Packers hurt more.

Mike Vick to start at QB in Week 2? Love this. Obviously, it is tough for Kevin Kolb -- it'll be tougher for him (and Andy Reid, too), when Vick plays awesome next week. (Meanwhile, I can't believe how surprisingly excited I am to see Vick playing and playing well.)

Padres-Rockies, Round 2: Who are these Padres of mid-September? Because they sure don't look like the bunglers of August and earlier this month.

Yankees-Rays, Round 2: And back the AL East lead goes to the Yankees (courtesy of a Posada HR in the 10th) This is going to go down to the final weekend.

13 Ks for Cole Hamels in a Phillies W: A sizzling Hamels would help make the Phillies the team to beat in the NL playoffs.

Remember David Ortiz's struggles earlier this season? He now has 30 HR.

2011 MLB schedule starts/ends earlier: Happy to have one of the earliest starts in MLB history (March 31) if it means the regular season wraps up before September is over and the playoffs are contained in October.

Denard Robinson for Heisman, Cont'd: The Michigan QB has taken the lead in the HeismanPundit straw poll.

Florida playmaker Chris Rainey arrested for stalking: What a moron. But I don't think his Florida career is over. Urban Meyer almost always gives his players a second chance, if they behave themselves. Then again, one of Meyer's big things is treating women with respect. I say Rainey is back on the field by LSU in the middle of next month.

Miss my bonus (media-navel-gazey!) post yesterday not-so-wildly speculating on Bill Simmons' big new project for ESPN? Check it out here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Would Bill Simmons Do, Cont'd

Now that Deadspin has publicly broken the story about Bill Simmons' emerging new venture within ESPN, I feel comfortable writing about it, because he is a big enough figure in sports media to make it really interesting to think about what it might be. Let's call this a follow-up post to the one I did a year ago, when Bill first started talking publicly about his ambitions beyond creating content himself.

I would classify the analysis in two categories: There's a clever, short answer and there's a grinding long answer. Let's start with the short answer:

(1) It doesn't matter what Bill does -- simply that he is doing something. Let me spin away from sports for a second, because I can think of a pretty good template:

"Peter Jackson presents [director you've never heard of]'s 'District 9.'"

The headline was Peter Jackson's association. That you'd never heard of the director didn't matter. That Jackson lent his credibility to the film was all that mattered. (That it turned out to be a great movie -- not insignificantly, made on a lean budget -- directly reflects Jackson's eye that made him so popular in the first place, of course.)

Whenever ESPN launches Bill's new initiative, the headline -- in effect -- is "Bill Simmons Presents..." It will give the project credibility. It will bring in an audience. And it will be successful.

This is the optimal scenario for Bill that I laid out last year, back when he was talking about starting his own thing: Given Bill's strengths, he is much better off letting ESPN manage the back-end and let him manage the creative part -- finding talent, shaping stories, lending his cred.

ESPN gets some credit for being entrepreneurially oriented, but not nearly as much as it should: From "PTI" and "SportsNation" and "30-for-30" on TV to aggressive entry into mobile and local to... well, whatever Bill launches in the next few weeks or months.

Part of that means giving smart people the freedom to flex -- obviously, that has become increasingly important to Bill and ESPN was wise to give him the budget and the room to do... well, again: Basically, whatever he wants.

(2) What specific forms does that take? Bill offered some foreshadowing in those interviews with the Huffington Post and Mediaite and NY Mag last fall -- he wants to encourage and develop and promote quality writing. ESPN uses a bunch of good writers already -- and obviously E-Ticket has had great success.

But Bill would presumably have the freedom to go out and find the best undervalued talent -- sports A&R, so to speak -- then use his brand and ESPN's platform to showcase their work and build their presence in the sports media ecosystem. So I think of it as a more nimble E-Ticket, a more honed version of the ESPN "Commentary" section. Bill used the analogy of "The National" -- recognizing that Deford had an abysmal sense for business.

Let's update the "National" analogy for today's media landscape. If I had to place a bet, I would say that Bill's project will be closer to a sports version of The Awl -- the reigning gold standard for quality writing by a range of talented contributors.

(I prefer "a sports Awl" to a construction of "like Page 2 used to be" -- among other reasons because Page 2's "golden era" was the product of a specific moment and specific strategy in pre-blog/pre-Facebook/pre-Twitter media history and it is folly to try to recreate it, rather than create something for today's reader and today's context.)

I suspect the "Awl" model because it is largely platform agnostic -- Bill doesn't seem to have an interest in creating the next great technology as much as he does leveraging technologies (podcasts, Twitter, web, TV) to distribute great content. The Awl model is about the writing first; ESPN, with its massive portal and platforms and reach and sales team, can handle the rest.

I have followed Bill's career for a long time -- back to the earliest posts at Digital Cities -- and I have never seen him more satisfied with something he has worked on (with justification!) than "30/30." He didn't create the content himself, but he set out a vision and helped others deliver on it. The logical next step is for him to to be a lead "show runner" -- to run his own product.

Let me echo something I said last year: I can count on one hand the number of people who could build a big, stand-alone sports-media product off their name brand -- Huffington-style (although she had the key help of some very savvy online content folks) or like Howard Stern.

Bill makes that short list. And, sure, it would have been intellectually interesting to see him strike out on his own -- how much funding could he have gotten for his own company, and how quickly? And how would he respond to the challenges of a pure start-up? But, frankly, why assume that risk when his goal is to build great products -- and ESPN will back him on it?

Ultimately, his best move was to leverage ESPN's resources to create his products (and it was in ESPN's best interests to give him that freedom and support).

Whatever Bill does next will scratch this latest entrepreneurial itch -- and will be the most interesting thing he has done so far. I suspect he is enjoying the process, and it will only inspire him to do more. That's a good thing for him personally, for the folks he is going to be working with (including ESPN) and for fans.

Looking back at my idle speculation on Bill's future from last fall, what I was really struck by was his fearlessness as it relates to failing -- not that he doesn't think he will fail, but that he doesn't mind if he fails... as long as he is taking a big swing.

Regardless of what he does, that mindset will be his greatest asset.

-- D.S.

09/14 Quickie: Jets, McCluster, Bragnac

Today's Names to Know: Dexter McCluster, Anquan Boldin, Legedu Naanee, Dexter McCluster, Reid Bragnac, CC Sabathia, Rafa Nadal, Denard Robinson, Vince Young, Oprah and More.

In case you missed it,
that was Dexter McCluster flying by, en route to folk hero status in Kansas City and the No. 1 trending search ranking on Google. His sick even-better-than-Dante-Hall-ever-did punt return that proved to be the decisive score for the Chiefs in their unexpected upset over the Chargers.

That the Jets' offense was the albatross in a loss
was not a surprise -- between the endemic mediocrity and the pressure from the terrific Ravens D, 6 first downs and 9 points seems about right.

Still: The Jets will go nowhere this season if the offense can't figure it out. (Remember when they made all those offseason moves to make a great D even better and folks were saying "Well, all they'll have to do is score 10 points and the D will take care of the rest." There you go.

I think it is not too early to see this as a huge problem that needs to be addressed now. The season is too short and the playoff field is too competitive not to panic as early as... today.

(The Ravens, meanwhile, seem to have solved a huge problem from last year with the introduction of Anquan Boldin into their offense.)

Meanwhile, anyone see Chiefs-over-Chargers coming? Speaking of D, it was a late-game four-down goal-line stand by the KC D that gave them what could be a season-defining win. I'm not saying the Chiefs are headed to the playoffs, but beating the division favorites on national TV in front of a frenzied home crowd is big. Besides, the Chiefs are easy for fans across the country to root for, especially because there isn't a ton of love for Phil Rivers and the Chargers.

(BTW: Legedu Naanee is a revelation, although fantasy GMs knew that someone was going to have to catch all those Rivers passes in the absence of Vincent Jackson.)

The Rays are in 1st place in the AL East. You can thank Yankee-killer Reid Brignac, who personifies "I wasn't even supposed to be here today." (It will be interesting how many Cy voters point to Sabathia's gem of a no-decision: A 2-hit shutout over 8 innings with 9 Ks.)

NL West Watch: The Padres held off the Rockies in Colorado to maintain their tenuous grasp on 1st place. I would call it a "must-win" for San Diego, but at this point EVERY game is a must-win for them. The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Rox.

30-year-old baseball journeyman pitcher Bobby Cramer winning his first-ever MLB game is as good of a feel-good story as you'll see in baseball this year, especially if you are in your 30s (or older). Great must-read from King Kaufman about it.

Rafa Nadal won the US Open (finally) and completed his career Grand Slam. We are now in the Nadal Era.

Is Denard Robinson at the top of Heisman straw polls yet? If not, why not?

Good for Vince Young for publicly saying he would absolutely accept the 2005 Heisman Trophy if it was stripped from Reggie Bush. The Heisman Trust should take him up on it. It's not like he isn't worthy.

Unlike Oprah, I will not be giving away a free trip to Australia to all of you. Apologies!

-- D.S.

Monday, September 13, 2010

BlogPoll Monday: 1 Bama, 2 TCU

If one substantial point of the college football poll is to figure out the top 2 teams in the country for the purpose of pairing them to play for the national title, then I'd qualify this week's poll as a huge shake-up: After loving Boise for 2 weeks -- preseason and Week 1 -- I bumped them from the No. 1 spot on my ballot... after a bye week. They didn't even play.

But Virginia Tech did, and lost to 1-AA James Madison -- a fine team, but more importantly, proving VT isn't nearly as good as we gave Boise credit for a week ago. I'm fine with the whiplash; the point of every subsequent week of the season is to introduce more evidence into the poll. For example: Alabama made Penn State -- a solid if not elite team -- look like a Division II team.

This week's poll, pending your comments:

1. Alabama
2. TCU
3. Ohio State
4. Boise St
5. Oregon
6. Utah
7. Oklahoma
8. Iowa
9. Auburn
10. Texas

11. Florida
12. Houston
13. Nebraska
14. South Carolina
15. Air Force
16. Stanford
17. Miami
18. Arkansas
19. Oregon St
20. Arizona

21. LSU
22. Denard Robinson
23. Fresno St
24. Wisconsin
25. Baylor

Next week's big games: Baylor at TCU, Air Force at Oklahoma, Iowa at Arizona, Florida at Tennessee, Arkansas at Georgia, Wake Forest at Stanford, Houston at UCLA.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

09/13 Quickie: Lions, 'Boys, Vick, Arian

Today's Names to Know: Calvin Johnson, Alex Barron,Mike Vick, Arian Foster, Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Stewart Bradley, Mike Martz, Wes Welker, Ravens-Jets, Kevin Durant, Alabama, SF Giants, Colorado Rockies, Cliff Lee, Tiger Woods, Sue Bird and More.

What a wild start to the NFL season -- and a crazy weekend in general.

*Calvin Johnson's non-TD: If that doesn't turn out to be the greatest catch of the 2010 season, it sure as hell has "greatest incomplete pass of the 2010 season" locked up.

(Sure seemed like a catch to me.)

*Dallas Cowboys' non-TD: On the other hand, zero sympathy for Dallas for losing out on a game-ending TD when offensive lineman Alex Barron -- currently a Top 10 Google Trend (and, notably, the only non-VMA trend among the Top 10) -- was flagged for an obvious holding penalty against Brian Orakpo, sealing the largely unexpected win for the Redskins in McNabb's debut.

*Mike Vick steps up: Given how ineffective Kevin Kolb was before he left with that seeming concussion, I have to believe Eagles fans would be happy to leave Vick in there, even if Kolb is healthy enough to start next week. In fact, I'm sure many Eagles fans are wondering if they win the game, outright, if Vick plays the entire game and not just when Kolb's injury forced him in.

Naturally, Andy Reid insists that Kolb will return to the starting job if he is healthy enough for it. Let's hear it, Eagles fans (because the rest of us are with you): Boo!

(Worth noting, Vick's post-game tweet: "Thanks for all the support, but let's keep in mind we lost the game. No reason to celebrate and our leader k kolb went down." Rehabilitation.)

*Arian Foster breaks through: The player this week who had thousands of fantasy football GMs saying "He was available for plenty of rounds -- why didn't I take him?!"

It wouldn't have meant as much if the effort didn't complement a Texans win over the Colts -- rare enough as it is, regardless of who is starring. Is this the "Finally?!" year for Houston?

(If not for Foster, everyone would be focusing on Peyton Manning's monster fantasy game -- or Chris Johnson's awesome start, putting him well on the pace -- at least after one game -- for his goal of 2,500 yards.)

One other RB Name to Know: Rashard Mendenhall. Now THAT was a way to finish a game -- and a hell of a gift for fantasy owners: A TD and an extra 50 yards rushing.

*Stewart Bradley concussion: Speaking of Eagles concussions, Andy Reid should expect to get scrutinized for his ill-advised decision to put Bradley back into the game after his seeming concussion. (So much for the NFL's concussion-awareness program. That lasted... zero weeks.)

*Flying back from Jacksonville to NYC yesterday afternoon, I had the Pats-Bengals game on my in-flight TV, and damn if the Pats didn't look awesome on offense (Welkah!) and way better on D than anyone expected them to.

*Tebow Watch: 2 touches (including the 3rd play of the game), 2 carries, 2 yards and a Broncos loss after David Garrard has one of his best games ever as a pro -- almost like he was trying to make a statement that any thought the Jags might have had about drafting Tebow to be QB of this Jaguars team was entirely unnecessary.

*Debuts: Hell of a winning one for Pete Carroll (and a hell of a loss for the 49ers). And the mere fact that Sam Bradford didn't snap in two makes his debut a success (despite the 3 picks and losing the game. 55 passing attempts?)

And say this for Mike Martz: The Bears may not win many games, but they will be wildly entertaining. (And as long as you're not making the playoffs anyway, isn't it better to be entertaining? Just ask the Browns fans.)

*And NFL Week 1 hasn't even had its best game yet -- that would be Ravens at Jets in tonight's MNF season-opener (not sure how many folks will stick around for Chargers-Chiefs).


*USA Hoops wins gold at the World Championships: The problem with expectations is that the team was in a "gold-or-bust" situation, so winning gold brings "As you should have!" rather than "Way to go!" That said: This was a breakthrough month for Kevin Durant. It is going to be fascinating to see how things work in London in 2012, if the superstars return to the team for the Olympic tournament.

*Alabama-Ohio State are 1-2 in the polls, same as last week. The biggest difference is that while Boise is still No. 3, their support with No. 1-votes eroded; my Saturday feelings about it -- as a Boise-is-No.-1 voter in the preseason and last week -- were foreshadowing.

*MLB Pennant Races: As expected, the Giants finished the weekend tied for 1st with the Padres in the NL West. And they could nudge ahead as early as tonight, when the Padres head to Denver to play the Rockies (who are themselves only 1.5 GB the division leaders after having won 10 straight games).

Oh and the Phillies pulled ahead of the Braves for sole possession of 1st in the NL East. (Over in the AL, the only question is whether the Rays will catch the Yankees for the AL division title. Cliff Lee!)

*Tiger Woods being bounced from the FedEx Cup feels like an entirely appropriate finish to this worst-year-of-his-career. The bigger question: How far does it extend into next year?

*WNBA Finals: Sue Bird, greatest Jewish basketball player?