Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

Rick Ankiel is a playoff hero (in some beat-you-over-the-head-with-the-10-years-later symmetry from his 2000 implosion).

Sweep Watch: After losing both LDS openers at home, the Rays (at Texas) and the Twins (at NY) could be swept out tonight.

Meanwhile, the Phillies have to be thinking sweep (although now that they have gotten a hit -- or more -- the Reds have to be thinking they can take at least the first game back in Cincy).

How much will Billy Wagner's abdominal injury hurt the Braves' attempt to win 2 of the next 3 games? (Certainly didn't stop them from closing things out last night, but these things have a way of regressing to the mean, even in a short series.)

Favre Watch: Who else is more than slightly surprised the NFL is going to investigate the Brett Favre sexting situation? News media may not have wanted to report on the cell-phone cam shots themselves, but they cannot ignore a league investigation.

CFB Viewing Guide (or at least what I'm watching):
Noon: Indiana at Ohio State (Slim pickings)
3:30: Bama/South Carolina and Michigan St/Michigan
6: Oregon State at Arizona (at least during commercials)
7:30: LSU at Florida (FSU-Miami and USC-Wash look-ins)

Not that he's going to, but if Steve Spurrier can beat Alabama today, it will be the greatest coaching job of his career. (I guess you could say that about any coach that beats Alabama this year -- I certainly would argue Urban Meyer's greatest win was over Alabama in the 2008 SEC title game.)

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant: I know, I know -- why put too much stock in a preseason game, especially given the Heat were playing without Dwyane Wade? Because that's what we do. And the instant history says that the Heat are going to be just fine without Wade -- certainly good enough to make the playoffs, at which point a full-strength Big Three can stake their claim.

John Wall vs. Derrick Rose: I read a lot of analysis that says Rose is Wall's best NBA comp. That doesn't feel precisely right -- Rose is stronger, Wall is faster, but both share a sketchy/still-in-progress jump shot. Rose is also two years ahead of Wall on the NBA development curve -- a lifetime when you're talking about the leap from a 19-year-old to a 21-year-old.

UConn hoops scandal: Well of course the school is going to defend Jim Calhoun in any "self-report."

State of Replay: MLB, the players and the umps don't need some sort of "summit" in December -- the league needs to implement far-reaching replay rules, period.

Enjoy your Saturday.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 08, 2010

10/08 Quickie: Rangers, Berkman, Freak, NFL Week 5, Michigan Civil War, More

Today's Names to Know: Rangers, Lance Berkman, Tim Lincecum, Roy Oswalt, Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Jay Cutler, Taylor Martinez, Alabama, Michigan vs. Michigan State, David Stern, John Wall, Tony Wroten and More.

MLB Playoffs:

*I downplayed the umpiring issues this morning. Maybe that's because I am and have been so adamantly pro-replay -- and I'm not talking expanded replay, but extensive replay -- that I simply sit back and let everyone else say what I've been saying for years: More. Replay. Now.

*Whoa, two days in, and the Rays look finished. Two games at home, two punchless efforts. Tampa was supposed to have the superior starting pitching, but Texas has flipped that script. A sweep would eclipse what was a best-in-baseball regular season.

*Tim Lincecum: 14 Ks in a 1-0 Giants win that can be attributed virtually entirely to Tim. Tell you what: It's not a no-hitter, but with zero margin for error, The Freak came pretty much as close as you can (while allowing any hits) to topping it.

UPDATE: Maybe he DID top it. Great post by Posnanski talking about the amazingness of the Lincecum and Halladay games and where they stack up historically.

*Lance Berkman! I hate the Yankees, of course, but the one redeeming quality of another Yankees World Series title would be that Berkman wins a ring.

*Today: Another day, another dominant "Roy." Roy Oswalt will see how long the Reds will remain hitless.

NFL Game of the Week: Vikings vs. Jets.

*Moss Minnesota homecoming: I love how enthusiastic he is about returning to Minnesota. A motivated Moss is a "best-WR-in-the-league-and-oh-by-the-way-maybe-ever" Moss.

*Yes, yes: The Favre pics. Kudos to the NY Post reporter who asked Favre to his face about them. (Favre deflected.)

NFL Week 5: My Top 5 Storylines
*Favre/Moss vs. Jets on Monday night
*3-0 Chiefs with ultimate "prove-it" game at Indy
*Wow, the Rams (playing 0-4 Lions) could be 3-2?
*Toughest to call: Giants at Texans
*Vickless Eagles will help 49ers get off schneid

Concussion Watch: Jay Cutler won't play this week -- as he shouldn't. (So interesting that mere days after a concussion, there is an actual question about whether Cutler should play; meanwhile, Twins MVP Justin Morneau has been out for months with his concussion -- and his team is about to get swept out of the playoffs -- and you don't hear anyone arguing "Suck it up, wuss.")

Nebraska rolls Kansas State: I think Nebraska has proven it is underrated at No. 7, going into Manhattan and destroying a previously unbeaten K-State. Taylor Martinez (242 yards rushing and 4 rush TDs) is the Heartland's version of Denard Robinson.

Looking ahead to the CFB weekend:

*Alabama at South Carolina will be the Tide's toughest test until they play Auburn and the SEC title game in back-to-back weeks.

*Game of the Week: Michigan State at Michigan. It's a grudge match. It's two teams who need to "prove it." It's Denard. What more do you want?

*Speaking of grudge matches: FSU at Miami. Could end up being a de facto ACC title game?

*Shield your eyes: LSU at Florida. The nation's most inept (yet lucky!) coach versus a stalled-out offense. It might make last year's Tebow-concussion grinder look explosive.

*Here's how far USC has fallen: Not only do we all expect Stanford to win, but does anyone really expect it to be close?

*Upset Special: Oregon State on the road at Arizona. (I'm riding the Oregon State bandwagon for one more week. If they get thrashed, I'm off. But after playing Boise in Boise and TCU in Dallas, the Beavers will hardly be intimidated by playing Zona on the road.)

Best. Season. Ever.: That's basically what David Stern said ("greatest season ever") the 2010-2011 season would be for the NBA. And he's right. The Heat will be the most intriguing team of all time. The question in the East is whether the Celtics, window closing, can knock them off. The Lakers are still the team to beat. Kevin Durant has emerged as the best player in the league. And John Wall is the most exciting rookie since LeBron.

Once again, there may only be a handful of teams with a legit shot at winning the championship, but on any given night on League Pass, there will be at least a few things worth watching.

Wall Watch: Here's how good he is -- he can miss his first nine shots, not make a basket until the 3rd quarter and still lead the Wiz to a romp over the now-hapless Cavs.

Who is the best basketball team in the world? After yesterday, Europeans might say Barcelona, given the way Barca beat the NBA's two-time defending champ. But the Lakers barely played Kobe -- who was hardly playoff-fit -- and obviously Andrew Bynum wasn't playing. I would be curious to see how Barca would do in a full NBA season. Over-under 25 wins? Certainly not the worst in the league.

College hoops: Tony Wroten, perhaps the most talented prep player in the illustrious history of Seattle-area hoops, committed to play for hometown Washington, where he will be the most popular player since Nate Robinson.

Enjoy your weekends everyone. I'll be filing throughout the weekend.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sponsored Post: BFL Game of the Year?

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

Week 4 continued my hot streak: I had the week won even before team MVP Tom Brady took the field on Monday night. (Probably a good thing, given his meager fantasy output.)

The game ball went to LaDainian, who had a monster game with those 133 rushing yards and 2 TDs. (Antonio Gates was his standard dominant self.)

It is a bit ominous that the rest of my roster -- Chris Johnson, Kevin Walter, Malcom Floyd, Michael Crabtree, Mason Crosby, the Bengals D -- was awful. Here's why:

This week, I play Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, the No. 2-ranked team in the league (behind me). It is, arguably, the game of the year in the league -- certainly the best game of the season so far.

Huge problem: Tom Brady has a bye week. Having not wasted a draft pick on a QB to sit behind Brady all but one week, I have replaced him with the best QB available on the waiver wire, Shaun Hill of the Lions, who I figure will be flinging away against the Rams in what will likely be the Lions' best shot at a W all season.

Meanwhile, Titans-Cowboys is huge for me: I can only hope that Miles Austin's return from the bye week comes with 20 points -- and that Chris Johnson feasts on the Dallas D.

Schatz is loaded: Forte and Foster in the backfield (with McNabb), and Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith and Santana "Thank God it's not Randy" Moss as his WRs. I may be missing Brady, but I'm catching Schatz a week before he gets Big Ben back. Should be a great game.

Famous last words (I never thought I'd say): I like my chances with Shaun Hill.

Here is
this week's full-league recap (via Dan Levy) and P&G's Take It To The House page on Facebook.

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.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

10/07 Quickie: Halladay, Mo, Lee, Favre

Today's Names to Know: Roy Halladay, Don Larsen, Mo Rivera, Mark Teixeira, Delmon Young and Greg Golson, Cliff Lee, Bengie Molina and Victor Cruz, James Shields, Randy Moss, Max Hall, Shaq and Amare, Lakers, Capitals, Dwight Howard, Ken Jeong, mini-giraffes, Brett Favre and More.

Honestly? I'm still just a bit flabbergasted by Roy Halladay's no-hitter.

There is the history: The first no-no in the playoffs in the 50 years since Don Larsen.

There is the fact that this was Halladay's first-ever playoff start.

There is the fact that Halladay was the best pitcher in the NL this season, if not all of baseball.

There is the fact that this instantly becomes the defining moment of the 2010 MLB season.

And there is the fact that it was one of the most remarkable collective experiences of the past year -- one of those things you remember because EVERYONE is watching, talking about it.

We are all fans of our own separate teams. But for this one moment -- well, except if you're a Reds fan -- you considered yourself a Phillies fan.

Or, more accurately, a Roy Halladay fan. And we celebrate with him and all Phillies fans.


Yankees win Game 1: Mo Rivera was, typically, shut-down, and Mark Teixeira bashed the lineup's way around CC's ineffectiveness, but let's talk for a second about Delmon Young's "hit" (actually caught by Yankees OF Greg Golson).

If that had been the decisive play of the game -- say, if it had led to the game-winning run -- I think that we would have seen radically expanded in-game replay installed in MLB by next spring. Yes, because of the Yankees. The "What if?" alone should still inspire reform.

Rangers put Rays in a hole: No one is saying the Rays are done, but things sure don't look good today after they ran into the Clif Lee buzzswaw (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 10 K). Is it really up to James Shields to stave Tampa from LDS oblivion?



Randy Moss to Vikings: The Pats had to do it. Apparently, things had devolved with Moss to the point where he was going to be almost entirely ineffective (at best), and a distraction (at worst). The Vikings had to do it. Their window is as wide as the remainder of Brett Favre's career. And Moss will be a lot more comfortable back in Minnesota -- where the fans still love him -- than he would have been in a less familiar city.

(Do the Patriots need to flip that 3rd-round pick -- or some of their other 2011 Draft stockpile -- for an elite receiver, like Vincent Jackson? I don't think so. Let's see what happens first. Bill Belichick has done more with less before.)

Darrelle Revis vs. Randy Moss: Revis says that Moss quit on the Pats in the Jets' Week 2 win over New England. (If winning is what happens when Moss quits, could quitting be so bad?) Anyway, it layers a new intrigue on the Jets-Vikings game on Monday night.

Who is Max Hall? One of the handful of players out there who get to call themselves "starting quarterback in the NFL." Even if the Cardinals are installing him out of desperation -- or lack of a better choice -- more than anything else.

NBA Preseason: Shaq scores 8 in Celtics' debut; Amare scores 11 in Knicks debut. In the case of the former, not exactly the dazzling display everyone was expecting.

Heat Advisory: On the one hand, Dwyane Wade's hamstring problem -- keeping him out 2 weeks (for now) -- is an ominous foreshadowing that the Heat's success is dependent on getting through the season with no injuries to the Big Three. On the other hand, they could sleepwalk through the regular season; as long as LeBron, Wade and Bosh are healthy for the playoffs, the Heat will be fine. (Then again, without the time to create on-court chemistry, doing it on the fly in the playoffs is more of a challenge.)

John Wall Watch: Back in action tonight vs. the Cavs, who without LeBron are no longer a Wizards rival. (Odd one: Has a rivalry ever been based around a guy, not a team or city?)

NBA GMs pick the Lakers to win the title (I agree); pick Kevin Durant to win league MVP (I agree); and pick John Wall to win Rookie of the Year (I agree). Boring.

NHL regular season starts today: As always, I won't offend the hockey fans by attempting analysis. I am rooting for the Caps, hoping that they don't epically choke like they did last year. I agree with SI's prediction the Caps will win the Cup and think that last year's utter failure will motivate them to go all the way this year.

Video of the Day: "Fast Don't Lie" featuring Dwight Howard and the hilarious Ken Jeong (from "Community"), not entirely unreminiscent of the DirecTV ad with the rich Russian guy, whose "kissing the miniature giraffe" has become its own meme.

Speaking of viral, if you're seeing "I Like It On..." in your Facebook feed, it's about where women like to leave their purses when they get home, with a construction intended to raise visibility for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And projecting today's meme of the day: "Brett Favre dong," courtesy of Deadspin.

-- D.S.

10/06 Quickie: Moss, Heat, MLB, Wall

Today's Names to Know: Randy Moss, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Francisco Liriano, John Wall, Yao Ming, Ben Roethlisberger, Marshawn Lynch, John Brantley, Liverpool, Andy Behrens and More.

Randy Moss to the Vikings?(!?)
That is intriguing enough to bump the Heat preseason debut and the MLB Playoffs preview from the top. (Moss back on the team where he made his reputation! Moss receiving passes from Brett Favre!) But only briefly. Much more later.

Heat Superfriends debut: Last night put in stark relief the scenario that could derail the Heat's dream (or, for the rest of us, nightmare) season -- injuries.

Because as a "Big Three," the Heat are seemingly an unstoppable carnival of talent. But if it's just LeBron and Bosh -- or LeBron and Wade, or Wade and Bosh -- the team is great, but not THAT great. Not "coronate" great. Not "72" great.

The only way this experiment works is if all three are playing, without injury. The first game of the preseason really doesn't matter. All that matters is that they are healthy starting in, say, mid-April.

But let's call last night "foreshadowing."

MLB Playoffs Preview: Can you isolate a single factor that is going to win a team a championship? Probably not, but for now I am enamored with starting pitching as a pretty good basis for postseason success -- and no one has a better playoff rotation than the Phillies, who feature Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. That, plus the Phillies' overall experience, should be enough to win the NL pennant -- then edge the Rays (another team with superior starting pitching) in the World Series, in a repeat of the 2008 W.S. The most dramatic storyline of the AL playoffs are if -- perhaps when -- the Yankees are eliminated.

ALDS 1: Yankees over Twins in 4
ALDS 2: Rays over Rangers in 5
ALCS: Rays over Yankees in 6

NLDS 1: Phillies over Reds in 3
NLDS 2: Giants over Braves in 3
NLCS: Phillies over Giants in 5

World Series: Phillies over Rays in 7

Today's LDS Game 1s: That Cliff Lee vs. David Price match-up in Game 1 of the Rangers-Rays series is spectacular. (Sabathia vs. Liriano -- in Minnesota -- tonight is a close second. In distant third, Roy Halladay's start is notable for being his first-ever in the postseason.) This is a terrific triple-header.

John Wall's NBA preseason debut: The 21 points isn't nearly as important as how he got half of them -- making a living at the free-throw line, not unlike Kevin Durant. His jumpshot will come around eventually; drawing contact, creating fouls and getting to the line is innate. Oh, and most promising of all: 9 assists and only 2 turnovers. In a -- you read this correctly -- Wizards win.

More NBA Preseason foreshadowing: DeMarcus Cousins with the double-double (16 and 16)... Yao plays, but only very limited minutes (12)... The Nets showcased an uptempo blueprint for entertaining, if not winning 50 games... Cavs win! Cavs win! (Take that, LeBron!)

Newsflash! Ben Roethlisberger will start for the Steelers in his first week back (Week 6, following Pittsburgh's bye week next week.)

Marshawn Lynch traded to Seahawks: Can those of us who (over-)drafted CJ Spiller finally get the production we were hoping for?

CFB: Hmm, Vegas sportsbooks took down the line on LSU-Florida on rumors Florida QB John Brantley might not be able to play. Silly bookies: Don't they remember Florida is playing LSU? Florida could trot out Trey Burton at QB -- or simply a series of skill-position players like Jeff Demps or Andre Debose. Les Miles still coaches LSU, right?

Business: Liverpool fans' long Hicksian nightmare is over! The team has been sold to John Henry and the Boston Red Sox ownership group, of all people.

Now, my Liverpool friends, this is not the case of going from one idiot American sports owner to another: The difference between Hicks and Henry is as wide as loser and winner, as chump and champion, as bankrupt and brilliant.

Consider what Henry was able to do with a floundering Red Sox franchise -- expect competence. And, after the reign of Hicks, that should be a welcome change. (Shout-out to longtim Quickie reader Fred R. for flagging this as an issue.)

Here's an odd one: The fantasy baseball player of the year was... a London cab driver? He used Bloomberg's new fantasy-analysis engine to crush the field.

And congrats to Yahoo! Sports fantasy guru Andy Behrens for winning Tout Wars, the most competitive fantasy baseball league in the world. (Here's hoping Yahoo gives him a bonus, like team that rewards a player or coach who wins MVP or a World Series.)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Pro Basketball Prospectus Released

If you are an NBA fan, the best $10 you can spend this year is on the PDF edition of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-2011, out today.

If you have an iPad, all the better -- it renders amazingly. But even if you are merely going to read it on your laptop (which is how I consumed it last year), it is an invaluable resource heading into the season, and something you can digest in small bites when you have the time.

My favorite part are the player comps. Who doesn't want to know that they are compared to the incomparable Caldwell Jones? (I'm looking at you, Hilton Armstrong.)

-- D.S.

Happy 38th Birthday, Grant Hill

Every year on my birthday, I track the number of pro athletes who are still older than me. The number is dwindling, but it remains awesome to see Grant Hill still going strong at 38, today.

Monday, October 04, 2010

10/05 Quickie: Chung, Pats, Heat

Today's Names to Know: Heat, Patrick Chung, Tom Brady, Danny Woodhead, Justin Morneau, Mets, Terrelle Pryor, John Wall, Mike Vick, Chuck Cecil, Christine O'Donnell and More.

It could be the most anticipated NBA preseason game of all time: The Heat
versus... well, it really doesn't matter, does it? The fact is that this is our first glimpse at the Superfriends -- or whatever they are calling themselves. And I will be tuning in.

Patrick Chung, Pats crush Fins
: Here's a first -- the Pats became the first team to score a TD in ALL the following ways in a single game: Rushing TD, Passing TD, Pick-6, Kickoff Return and Blocked FG.

(Presumably if you had Pat Chung as your IDP in fantasy -- if your league uses IDP -- you crushed it this week. What didn't he do? Was it the most overtly dominating performance by a defensive/special teams player of the season? Let's include the fact it was on the national stage of MNF. As a bonus for Chung, he is the No. 1 trend on Google this morning.)

Milestones: Tom Brady was the fastest QB ever* to reach 100 wins (he did it in 131 games).

* - in the Super Bowl Era

Woodhead Watch: With every additional touchdown, Danny Woodhead grows taller by an inch. At this rate, he will look like Daunte Culpepper by the season's end. (Chalk one up to "system" over "star.")

MLB: I never like the lull between the end of the regular season of baseball and the start of the playoffs three days later. Give me some kind of mini-playoff -- expand the field. (There are some interesting arguments against -- most notably made by Joe Sheehan in a 2,500-word email he sent out to his newsletter subscribers. But the Wild Card is the single-best -- and probably the most popular -- innovation in baseball of the last 30+ years, and it is hard for anti-WC folks to argue around that.)

Justin Morneau out for playoffs: This isn't surprising -- he hasn't played in forever, because of that concussion. If he was in the NFL, he would have been back on the field after 2 weeks; is his concussion that bad? Or is the NFL that broken?

The Mets need a reboot: Mainly because of their massive payroll, they are stuck in this Knicks-in-the-00s vicious cycle of mediocrity. Why not implode the team and rebuild? At least fans can understand that. Frankly, if I was the Wilpons, I would offer $5 million a year and a piece of equity in the team to Matt Silverman, president of the Rays.

Coming tomorrow: Playoff picks. (Preview: Phillies over Rays for the title.)

CFB BlogPoll Reax: Oregon vs. Ohio State. Some very fair criticism rolled in about how down I am on Ohio State, while I am suddenly so high on Oregon. Folks are pointing out that we have some terrific evidence -- Ohio State stifling Oregon head-to-head in the Rose Bowl last year -- that favors ranking Ohio State ahead of the Ducks.

More NBA preseason: Lots and lots of openers today: Heat notwithstanding, I am paying closest attention to the untelevised debut of John Wall, who has instantly become my favorite NBA player. Among Wizards fans, I'm hardly alone.

Kobe vs. LeBron: Who ya got? On its face, I'd say LeBron, just for the size. But I'm actually going to take Kobe, who is smarter, a better shooter and -- frankly -- tempermentally less likely to choke.

Injuries: Vick out 1-2 weeks with a rib injury, and you always wonder how his body will react the first time (or dozen) he is crunched by a defensive lineman. The Eagles will flounder.

Penalties: Chuck Cecil is fined $40,000 for giving the ref the finger on Sunday. He's lucky he wasn't suspended a game, although it provided quite a bit of hilarity for the rest of us.

Ryder Cup: A game comeback by the Yanks (and predictable chokery by the Euros), but -- ultimately -- humiliation.

"I am not a witch." Just had to mention that.

-- D.S.

What ESPN's Heat Index Can Learn From Tim Tebow

Next week, is going to launch "Heat Index," a new section dedicated exclusively to the Miami Heat. Here is why this is really smart:

ESPN gets it that, in some compelling instances, topics trump traditional "league" coverage. In this case, the Heat will be the biggest ongoing story in the NBA this season -- and among the biggest stories in all of sports.

"Heat Index" is not unlike what I did in the summer of 2009, launching a site dedicated to full-time coverage of Tim Tebow.


My thesis was simple: In the same way that "hyper-local" had become an interesting (if not yet profitable) strategy for news-media companies, I argue that "hyper-topical" can be at least as powerful. Geography will always be a driver, but so is interest.

Indeed, heading into the fall of 2009, there was no bigger ongoing athlete story in sports than Tebow. And he did end up being a source of non-stop fascination for fans -- on a daily basis (up until a few weeks ago, really), there was never a lack for material. did a fair amount of traffic, driven by a wide variety of sources: Direct access; links from the Tebow-centric ecosystem of newspaper sites and other blogs; and from search. (Among the distribution strategies I used to reach a bigger audience was to write a weekly column from the "Tebow beat" for Yahoo! Sports.)

"Heat Index" isn't like ESPN's recent forays into topic-driven coverage, things like the Tebow Tracker or LeBron Tracker -- both more aggregations of existing ESPN coverage, not creating content specifically and originally for the conceit itself, as the Heat Index will be.

In this way, think of "Heat Index" as "" -- it is closer to their "ESPN Local" initiative (,,, than it is to simple aggregators like "Hunt for October" or "Tebow Tracker." didn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense -- the Dolphins or Marlins or The U are of limited interest. But everyone has their eye on the Heat this year (and next... and the next). ESPN will likely be able to get 90 percent of the audience (and sponsorship) interest in a Miami-focused product by simply covering the Heat.


Here was a key takeaway from my TimTeblog experiment: The slicing of topics only goes so far, unless you are satisfied with extremely limited appeal (and I'm not saying that wouldn't work -- but the resource-intensiveness of doing it well severely limits your ROI).

Here are the criteria I would set out:

*Topic of "national" (or large regional) interest: It has to be something that a lot of people care about.

In the case of Tim Tebow, he was the most popular player in college football history, coming back as the defending national champ with a potential best-of-all-time storyline. Hundreds of thousands of fans -- maybe millions -- couldn't get enough.

It wouldn't work to have a blog dedicated to, say, first-year Alabama starting QB Greg McElroy. Simply not enough people care.

*It has to have staying power: You need something that will have drama for months, if not longer.

In the case of Tim Tebow, not only was the storyline going to run from July through the end of the college football season in January, but it was going to extend from January through April, as Tebow morphed into the most intriguing prospect of the 2010 NFL Draft.

As a counter-example, Titans assistant Chuck Cecil flipping off a ref is a great story for about 24 hours, but it doesn't last. And even something like the Carmelo trade rumors have a shelf life limited to a few weeks; it's simply not worth the resources to try to build a full-on brand.

*There has to be a steady flow of news: Original reporting is fine, but the best coverage is a mix of original content and putting together -- and reacting to -- the best of what else is being said out there, along with a mix of forms (video, podcasts) and interactivity (letting users help).

In the case of Tim Tebow, there was never a lack of storylines in any given week -- or even by the day. And there were at least a half-dozen stories written about Tebow every day, giving me more than enough material to react to. I averaged 3 posts per day from July '09 through April '10.

As you look at the landscape, again too many topics simply don't rise to the level of content flow. Consider the drop-off in Teblog coverage since the start of the season, when there is so much less going on with Tebow -- and so much less being written or said about him.

Here is an interesting thing: I covered Tebow more comprehensively and -- because of the level of my obsessiveness -- with more nuance than anyone else out there, and I did it from New York City, not Gainesville. And as a one-person shop, not a team. It speaks to the opportunity to do this kind of coverage leanly; obviously, ESPN has the kind of resources and distribution and sales team that would allow for hiring the country's top LeBron specialist -- Cleveland's Brian Windhorst -- and having multiple staffers keeping closer to a full-time dedication to the beat.

However, this "content flow" issue matters -- a lot. There might be an audience very interested in a blog exclusively about Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, but on the production side, it would pass out simply because there isn't enough content oxygen to feed the process on the kind of rhythm to make it a compelling site.

(Even something as huge as the LeBron free agency story -- while of interest for months or years ahead of last summer -- only had day-to-day content flow from June through July.)

Ultimately, this is why traditional topics work: A site dedicated to "movies" will never lack for material; however, it will never optimally satisfy consumers, because very few consumers care about ALL movie coverage -- they like a specific genre or star or "this week's release."


In the end, under these criteria, there are only a handful of sports topics that can command (or merit) the kind of dedicated attention that is throwing at the Heat, and -- not unintuitively -- it's not hard to figure out what qualifies: Tebow. Tiger. Anytime you have some kind of season-long uber-superlative in play. There are a few others. (I used to think Lance qualified, but there are simply too many stretches of too long duration where there is nothing to say; the same goes for our biggest Olympic stars or gender-bending novelties like Danica Patrick.)

But who is to say that these criteria can't be changed? One of the opportunities is figuring out what the concept of "topic" really means to consumers; what is evident is that a traditionally linear sport-by-sport or team-by-team interpretation is only part of it and that other interpretations not only exist, but can thrive. After all, if you had said to people back in the summer of 2009 that someone was going to start a blog entirely about day-to-day coverage of Tim Tebow, they would have laughed (and they did). But the proof is in the page views.

I remember back in 1997 as a young editor at suggesting that create a section entirely dedicated to covering Tiger Woods, full-time. (I still have the memo I wrote.) The idea was dismissed. I think it's fair to argue that, since then, more pages online have been consumed about Tiger than all other stories in golf combined.

More than a decade later, you can see ESPN shifting -- even partially -- towards a topic-driven model. Geography (or "local") is part of that. Elsewhere, SB Nation has built its business on an unmatched network of team-focused sites that certainly qualify as "topic-driven"; the topic is the team. (ESPN's True Hoop Network is a smaller version of that.)

And, obviously, this extends way beyond sports into every other category that is out there. If ESPN can do "Heat Index," why wouldn't AOL's TechCrunch do a full-time "Zuckerberg Index" or "Facebook Index" for the tech crowd out there obsessed with the Facebook founder and his company. Or Huffington Post launch "Majority Index," specifically covering news related to the twists in the 2010 election battle for the majority of seats in the US House and Senate.

And you can bet that entirely new innovations will quickly follow from other media companies. Like mine.

-- D.S.

Follow me on Twitter via @danshanoff.

BlogPoll Monday: 1 Bama, 2 Oregon

This week's BlogPoll Top 25 ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. TCU
4. Boise State
5. Ohio State
6. Nebraska
7. Auburn
8. Oklahoma
9. Utah
10. Stanford
11. Arkansas
12. South Carolina
13. Florida
14. Arizona
15. Miami
16. Iowa
17. Michigan State
18. Michigan
19. Nevada
20. Air Force
21. LSU
22. Baylor
23. Florida State
24. Oklahoma State
25. Northwestern

First, it's a rare moment when I can legitimately rank Northwestern ahead of Texas and USC.

Next: It's getting complicated to be a pollster who ranks (mostly) based on resume -- but it's certainly better than ranking on preseason inertia. I'm not quite sure how pollsters can keep Ohio State ahead of Oregon.

Then again, you might ask how I could keep Florida in the Top 15 after they way they were destroyed by Alabama. Partly, it's a function of Alabama being simply so juggernautly awesome; partly, it's a function that I think despite some truly awful play-calling on offense, Florida isn't as bad as that. (After all, I do rank Arkansas ahead of them for giving Bama a tougher game -- at least for a half.)

I'm not sold on Oklahoma yet -- expect an adjustment when we have the Nebraska-Texas result to compare it to in two weeks. If there's one team I think I should rank higher -- perhaps a lot higher -- it's Air Force, whose only loss is by 3 to Oklahoma at OU.

Comments, complaints, suggestions are welcome.

-- D.S.

10/04 Quickie: McNabb, Vick, Ravens,
Scobee, Carney, SF Giants, Oregon

Today's Names to Know: Donovan McNabb, Mike Vick, TJ Houshmanzadeh, John Carney, Josh Scobee, Taylor Mays, Sam Bradford, LaDainian Tomlinson, Arian Foster, Chuck Cecil, Oregon, SF Giants and More.

Well, at least the Padres made Game 162 meaningful. I was looking forward to a one-game playoff today -- between anyone -- but I'll settle for day-after NFL discussion:

*McNabb wins Philly homecoming: It wasn't pretty, and he showed how painful the exile was in his postgame locker-room speech to the team:

"Everyone makes mistakes in their lifetime, but they made one last year."

(I think the Philly fans handle the whole thing correctly, cheering McNabb before the game, then giving him a smattering of boos -- as they would any visiting QB -- when he took the field when the game started.)

*Vick hurt: From Player of the Month in September to KO'ed by injured ribs a few minutes into October. Really took a lot of the air out of the game.

*Ravens nick Steelers: There are two ways to think about this result. Either the Ravens positioned themselves as the team to beat in the AFC, or it indicated how AFC-leading competitive the Steelers will be once they return from their Week 5 bye week and actually have a quarterback.

*Old guys rule: How can you not love 46-year-old John Carney, just days after being signed by the defending champs, hitting 3 FGs to help the Saints eke out a win.

*Speaking of kickers: Joshhhhhhh Scooooooobeeeeeee! (That's how you type the name of a kicker who nails a 59-yarder with no time remaining to beat the Colts.)

*Winless: Are the 49ers irredeemable this season? It appears so (despite Taylor Mays' sick tip-toe collection of that blocked punt). They are not going to pull off what the Titans did a year ago. (Meanwhile: Sam Bradford and the Rams!)

*Fantasy Stud of the Week: LaDainian Tomlinson. As the new Nike ads say: "Boom."

(How many fantasy GMs freaked when Arian Foster didn't start? No matter: He had a big fantasy day, anyway.)

*Pointing fingers: I appreciate Chuck Cecil's frustration with his Titans, but flipping off the refs isn't going to help anything -- and he will be a lot lighter in the wallet this week.

*Late game: Now THOSE are the Bears we expected to see. (Allowing 9 sacks in the 1st half? If you let a defense get to the QB that many times, knocking him out is inevitable. Between the concussions to Jay Cutler and backup Todd Collins, who will play QB for the Bears?)

CFB Weekend Wrap: Confirmed, that Alabama is the best team in the country. And Oregon is No. 2. And Florida has some substantial identity issues, which lead to massive execution issues.

CFB Polls: Here is where poll inertia (versus resume-ranking) really kicks in -- what has Ohio State done to deserve a No. 2 ranking ahead of Oregon?

(It's going to get very ugly when Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon -- nevermind TCU and Boise State -- all end the season undefeated and the Ducks are left out of the national championship game. It is a best-case scenario for imploding the BCS. Then again, we have been at this point in the season -- even 8 weeks later -- plenty of times over the last decade, only to see things work themselves out between now and the final day of the season.)

MLB Playoffs: I would have liked to have seen the Phillies and Reds play for the NL title, but regardless, it's not like anyone is stopping the Phillies from winning the NL pennant.

In the AL, I don't think any Yankees fans are worried about playing the Twins -- even if Minnesota has home-field advantage. They should be worried about playing the Rays.

(Even in a depressing non-playoff season, Red Sox fans had to take an enormous pleasure in keeping the Yankees from winning the AL East title and getting HFA.)

NBA: Joakim Noah gets paid (5Y/$60M). He will stay in Chicago and anchor the Bulls' attempt to derail the Heat's sense of manifest destiny. The smartest move for the Bulls. (Let's go back to draft night; how many folks saw this kind of payday coming?)

NBA Preseason: Amare was as dominant as promised in his Knicks debut against Armani Jeans Milano; perhaps more intriguingly, the Nets' Derrick Favors was VERY solid in his pro debut, against Maccabi Haifa. (Don't trade him away just yet!)

Ryder Cup: Tiger Woods' year of mediocrity has extended to team competitions, too. So much for "putting him on the team will revitalize his career!", a meme I totally bought into.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

10/03 Quickie: Tide, Ducks, Padres

Here's how I think about Alabama demolishing Florida last night:

*As expected, Alabama was clearly the superior team. It's hard to be too upset when you get destroyed -- I felt the same way after the SEC title game last December.

(It was frustrating that Florida probably should have had at least 21 points; then again, if Alabama didn't take their cleats off Florida's throat in the 2nd half, the Tide would have racked up more, too.)

*With this shellacking on the books, I give Florida a much better shot at having a puncher's chance of beating Alabama when they play the rematch in December in Atlanta in the SEC title game.

Alabama is, by far, the best team that Florida will play. After yesterday, playing LSU will feel like playing the JV -- hell, on coaching IQ alone.

My expectation may not have been that Florida was going to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa last night, but I absolutely expect Florida to win out the rest of their schedule.

Florida will be a better team 9 weeks from now. I'm not sure Alabama can get much better than they are right now. Florida played the best at their best. It is unsurprising they lost.

More notes on yesterday:

*What a counter-punch by Oregon. Early on, Stanford looked unstoppable. (Florida could take a lesson from the Ducks.) I'm ready to move Oregon up to No. 2 in the country.

*USChadenfreude: It is the sweetest feeling in the sport.

*That ending of the LSU-Tennessee game: Baffling. Les Miles is simultaneously the dumbest major-program coach in the country -- and the luckiest.

(I wonder how many LSU fans who want Miles ousted secretly wished the Tigers lost, which would have almost assuredly cost him his job at the end of the season. Perhaps it still should.)

*Sucks to be a Texas fan right now. (And I'm not even convinced Oklahoma is that great.)

*Heisman Watch: It's Denard, then everyone else. It helps that Michigan's defense is porous, meaning that they keep Robinson full-throttle for 60 minutes.

*No one needed Virginia Tech's win over NC State more than Boise State.

*Looking ahead to next week: Alabama at South Carolina, Michigan at Michigan State.

*Early BlogPoll Top 25 preview: Alabama-Oregon are 1-2... Stanford is still a Top 10 team... Florida's loss is Arkansas' gain... 5 new teams 21-25 (Air Force, Baylor, FSU, OK St, N'western)

Non-CFB News:

*Padres-Giants-Braves NL West/NL Wild Card Mania: There is little better in baseball than a final day of the regular season that will determine one -- possibly two -- playoff spots. Thanks to the Padres (and Braves) for making it interesting.

Root for the Padres beating the Giants and the Braves beating the Phillies, which triggers a one-game playoff on Monday between the Padres and Giants, then the loser flying to Atlanta to play the Braves in a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.

*Zenyatta: 19/19. Lucky enough to be watching College Football Scoreboard after 7 when they cut in for the Zenyatta race, which she won in impossibly dramatic fashion. Glad they cut in to show that.

*Obviously, the NFL storyline of the day is Donovan McNabb's Philadelphia homecoming combined with Mike Vick's resurgence.

-- D.S.