Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday (Schadenfreude) Quickie

Yankees fans can take some solace that a nationwide showing of schadenfreude over New York's ejection from the MLB playoffs really indicates that the team is more powerful than ever.

But, otherwise, it's a gorgeous morning for the rest of us (and for me, typing 100 feet from the beach in St. Augustine, Florida), because the Yankees are out.

For better or worse, that overshadows who beat them (the first-time pennant-winning Rangers) and how (decisively), although last night's game was a fun one for Yankee-haters to watch.

That said: There is a special collective enthusiasm the rest of us can have (does German have a word the opposite of schadenfreude?) for Texas fans, experiencing something as awesome this.

The Rangers are one of those teams with so minimal postseason history that they haven't had the opportunity to create fan enmity.

That makes our collective interest positive, but lacking the dramatic highs and hates that come with a track record that has generated more fans emotion over the years.

Still: It is impossible not to feel good about the Rangers winning, either for its own novelty -- or because of who they dispatched along the way.

(By the way: Kudos to ESPN's Amy K. Nelson, who was the only expert at the WWL who picked the Rangers to win the AL pennant.)

Yes, there's a do-or-die playoff game for the Phillies today, but most will probably be focused on college football. Here's what has my attention today:

Noon: Michigan State-Northwestern
3:30: Auburn-LSU
8: Oklahoma-Mizzou

I jut hope that NU keeps it close -- if they do, all this talk of them as an Upset Special can be proven valid. This game feels like last year's NU-Iowa game, which Northwestern won.

As for the others, I fully expect Auburn to finally expose LSU as the overrated (yes: lucky) team that they are. (Then watch me and everyone else credit Auburn for "beating a Top 10 team.")

BCS No. 1 Oklahoma has as solid of a resume as anyone -- wins over Texas, Florida State and Air Force -- but they have hardly been dominant. Mizzou is largely unknown/unwatched.

I'm going to revise yesterday's picks: I think NU loses, but Mizzou knocks off Oklahoma for this week's BCS-busting result.

Enjoy your day -- and Yankee-hating hangover, if that's your lifestyle.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 22, 2010

10/22 Quickie: Game 6s, CFB Biggies, NFL Week 7

Two more games. Two must-wins. That's the challenge for the Phillies -- heading back to Philly after last night's win over Tim Lincecum and the Giants. And that's the challenge for the Yankees -- heading back to Arlington with Cliff Lee on the horizon for a possible Game 7.

In last night's NLCS Game 5, Roy Halladay is being framed as less dominant than effectively gritty, playing through a pulled groin in the 2nd inning and allowing base-runners in each of his 6 innings, before turning things over to a lights-out relief corps. SF's Aubrey Huff is the goat; the Phillies' 3-run 3rd -- effectively deciding the game -- pivoted off of Huff's error.

It's pretty obvious what the optimal scenario is here, for MLB and for fans: A win tonight for the Yankees, forcing a Game 7 showdown with Cliff Lee for the AL pennant. A win tomorrow for the Phillies, forcing a Game 7 showdown for the NL pennant.

I'm torn on rooting interest: On the one hand, the schadenfreude -- both for the Yankees and Phillies -- would be tremendous. On the other hand, I think they create the most interesting World Series match-up. Besides: Isn't the Yankee schadenfreude even better if they pull out the ALCS, only to lose in the World Series? (The risk is that they, y'know, win another World Series.)

But on a jam-packed weekend in sports -- a few awesome college football games, Week 7 in the NFL (which is going to draw massive interest no matter WHO is playing) -- MLB takes its spot in the front. (Not alone in the front, mind you. But at least sharing the seat. It's like they are sitting in the bench seat -- the NFL driving, college football riding shotgun, MLB wedged between them.)


CFB: You think Oregon was trying to make a statement to human pollsters? With the computers unimpressed -- and Oklahoma (Mizzou), Auburn (LSU) and even TCU (Air Force) all taking on serious competition -- this was obviously on Chip Kelly's mind.

Weekend Preview: Again, a huge weekend with significant implications on the national-title race. Either Oklahoma or Missouri will get their first loss. Same with Auburn and LSU. TCU has a tough match-up with Air Force (which nearly beat Oklahoma). My upset special (undoubtedly jinxed by the mere suggestion): Northwestern over unbeaten Michigan State.


NFL Week 7: The biggest storyline: How many "dangerous hits?" How many concussions? We know James Harrison isn't retiring, but suddenly the sport has a new focus -- who's getting hurt THIS week? Then again, my intuition is that the media is making a much bigger deal out of this -- snapping out of their own cognitive dissonance -- than fans, who have always been able to separate the game's violence from their interest in a big fantasy week.

My Top Storylines:
*Game of the Week: Favre at Green Bay
*Chargers dropping to 2-5 after playing Pats?
*Either the Rams or Bucs will have 4 wins.
*Eagles-Titans: Backup QB vs. Backup QB?
*Jets' bye week makes everything less sizzly.


NBA Lockout Watch: David Stern wants to cut player salaries? Not quite, but that's where he is anchoring the debate: A roughly 35% cut to salaries. Stern's position: If players help the league grow revenues, they can share in that. But the starting point -- given today's revenues -- needs to be lower. Players are always going to have a tough time winning the p.r. battle that they are underpaid. Then again, owners are going to have a tough time crying poor.

More NBA: Could an injured Mike Miller (now out for weeks) be the difference between a Heat title and Heat failure? (As with Wade -- or LeBron or Bosh -- as long as Miller is healthy for the playoffs, the Heat should be considered the favorite to win the East. Remains a big "if.")


CBB: Duke is No. 1 in the preseason coaches' poll. This shouldn't surprise you, as it shouldn't surprise you that they go wire-to-wire there throughout the regular season. That does NOT mean they will win a back-to-back national championship.

Recruiting: Quincy Miller, who might be the top prospect in the class of 2011, commits to Baylor, a HUGE win for the Bears. Miller will help keep things going when freshman big man Perry Jones declares for the NBA Draft -- as a Top 3 pick -- after a single year of college hoops.


Enjoy your weekend everyone. Look for light posting on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10/21 Quickie: Giants, Yankees, Harrison

Today's Names to Know: Juan Uribe, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, James Harrison, Mark Schlereth, Dallas Clark, LeBron, Darron Thomas, BlogPoll, More.

While most folks are focused on the Yankees' will-they-or-won't-they hook-up with elimination, the NLCS is delivering an exciting series: Did anyone else have Juan Uribe (and the sac fly) as the hero? (Even more interesting: Off of Roy Oswalt, Phillies ace brought out of the 'pen.)

How about heroics from Pablo Sandoval? (You might have foreseen Buster Posey hitting terrifically, but a great stat: He is only the 2nd Giants player ever to have a 4-hit game in the postseason.)

And now the Phillies are where the Yankees were yesterday morning: Pushed to the brink of elimination, after their NL pennant seemed so... inevitable, just a week ago. And amping the pressure on tonight's rematch between Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum.

Unlike the presumption that Cliff Lee will shut the door on the Yankees -- if/when New York even makes it to a Game 7 -- Game 1 of the NLCS allowed for at least one data point (if entirely unscientific) that Halladay starting doesn't equal an automatic shutout win for Philly.

But -- like CC Sabathia in NYC last night -- Doc certainly gives the Phillies their best shot at extending the series, sending it back to Philly and teeing up Hamels and Oswalt. (Of course, it's not like the Giants' pitchers have been slouches.)

It is easy -- too easy -- to look ahead to a Rangers-Giants World Series and pronounce that it will be the least-watched World Series match-up ever. That skips over the entirely exciting LCS round that would produce it. Hang in there: These series -- particularly the NLCS -- are worth it.


The Yankees regained some mojo yesterday -- they might even be able to force a Game 7 -- but they still have the "Cliff Lee Problem," and it is massive. It has to give the Rangers amazing confidence, even if they blow a 3-1 series lead and are forced into a Game 7, to know that Lee is the ultimate backstop. I try not to delve too much into pop psychology, but it seemingly would let them play Game 6 a lot looser. On the flip side, how can the Yankees NOT be looking past Game 6 and ahead to Lee and Game 7?


James Harrison is (almost certainly) not going to retire, but his sitting out of practice is a fascinating protest against the league's inconsistent crackdown on "big hits."

Must-Reads: ESPN's Mark Schlereth ripping the NFL for its fine of Harrison -- and the overall reaction to the dangerous hits. And here is PFT's Mike Florio with a clarification.


Dallas Clark: Out indefinitely with a wrist injury? As Peyton Manning's favorite target -- and a versatile weapon within the Colts' offense -- this hurts Indy's short-term prospects (not so much that they can't make the playoffs without him, but it would be hard to go far in January.)


LeBron Watch, Twitter Edition: I give him a lot of credit for using his Twitter feed to call out some of the more vulgar messages he has received.

That said, he is manipulatively picking the selectively hateful ones. I understand the point he's making. But what I would love to see is LeBron retweet the entirely fair criticisms, then react to them.

(By the way, SI's Peter King is the best at retweeting his critics. He showcases a healthy mix of dumb complaints -- to mock them -- and seemingly fair critiques.)


CFB Tonight: UCLA vs. No. 1 Oregon. If you haven't watched the fast-paced Ducks, this is a great chance. It also could be an upset alert -- UCLA has already knocked off Texas at Texas.

Heisman Watch: Cam Newton -- bulldozing his way through the season -- is the new leader in the HeismanPundit straw poll. He will inevitably stumble, but the question is whether one bad game would offset a season of dominance. He might hit "20/20" (TDs passing/TDs rushing) by the 10th game of the season.

I think it all comes down to the Alabama game, but consider that Tim Tebow won the '07 Heisman on a 4-loss Florida team, simply by rolling up such sick personal stats -- very reminiscent of Newton this season. (And in your irony alert, in case you didn't know: Newton backed up Tebow at Florida in '08.)


BlogPoll: You saw I was non-BCS-league heavy at the top of my ballot -- (1) TCU, (2) Boise, (3) Utah. The entire group saw it a little more conventionally: (1) Oregon, (2) Boise, (3) Oklahoma, with TCU 5th and Utah underrated at 9th.

Looking ahead to Saturday: Not to make up my mind before the games are even played (never!), but if Oklahoma beats underrated Mizzou and if Auburn beats LSU -- and it would be shocking if they didn't -- there is a good chance I will elevate them to 1-2 (as will the human BCS pollsters, almost assuredly).

As much as I like Boise, either win is better than the best win Boise will put up this year -- and both OU and AU have already racked up multiple wins (OU: Air Force, FSU, Texas; AU: South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas) better than Boise's best this year. And both OU and AU have the chance for even bigger wins (OU: Nebraska; AU: Alabama) later.


Must-Read: This. Alan Schwarz earned my vote for Sportswriter of the Year a long time ago.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sponsored Post: Yes, I Jinxed Myself

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

Let's be very clear: I brought this on myself.

After destroying the league for weeks -- including my epic 144-133 win over 2nd-ranked Aaron Schatz -- I just HAD to crow a little bit last week.

My triumphalism was rewarded with a spectacular jinx: I was crushed by my Team Old Spice cohort Phil from Gunaxin. It wasn't even close.

To her credit, Steph Stradley -- in this week's league-wide wrap-up post -- called me out: For my hubris. For my trash-talking. For my sorry attempt to pre-empt a jinx.

This week was humbling. There is so much season left, and I can hardly rest on a few weeks' of wins. The lesson: NEVER make assumptions. Kiss of death.

I'm all for Old Spice-style swagger -- thus the team name ("99-Rated Swagger," a play on Old Spice's "Swagger" rating in the 2011 version of Madden) -- but it wouldn't be a bad thing to layer it with a bit of humility.

This week, I will not be taking anything for granted. I'm playing Diana from National Football Post, whose 4-2 "Fresh 2 Death" is ranked No. 3 in the league; I'm sitting at No. 2.

My super-steal, LaDainian Tomlinson, has a bye week. I'll replace him with Willis McGahee and hope for a stolen TD near the goal line. Meanwhile, Kevin Walter sits for the suddenly hot Michael Crabtree. Otherwise, I can only hope for bounce-back games from Tom Brady. And Antonio Gates. And Miles Austin. And Malcom Floyd.

You can now see why I was blown out last week.

Check out 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.

10/20 Quickie: Yankees Near Exile

Today's Names to Know: Bengie Molina, CC Sabathia, Cody Ross, Jared and Jay Macchierole, Brett Favre, Carmelo Anthony, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Durant, Mike Quade, Ted Forstmann, Bomani Jones, Pete Vlastelica and More.


Rangers bash Yankees to brink of elimination
: Even if the Yankees win tonight with CC, they still have to win both remaining games in Texas, including beating the unbeatable Cliff Lee.

At least with a win tonight, Yankees fans can avoid the humiliation of being swept at The Stadium and watching the Rangers celebrate an AL pennant on their turf.

Given how things went in Game 1, don't count out Ron Washington wasting a quality start by CJ Wilson (and his hitters chasing Sabathia) and giving the Yankees an opening to win.

But given the mojo of the Rangers' hitters right now -- we'll see your sketchy Cano HR and raise you THREE -- the Yankees might not even make it that far.

(Suddenly, that midseason acquisition of Bengie Molina is looking pretty amazing for Texas. Diametrically opposite is the postseason-ending injury to Mark Teixeira.)

It is always a fascinating moment when a defending champ is eliminated in the following year's playoffs. It is even more fascinating when that champ is the Yankees.

Based on the flight of Yankee fans from the Stadium before the game ended, it feels like a significant portion of the fan base has already determined the series is as good as over.

And, if nothing else, the Rangers have already proven themselves as worthy AL champs.


Names to Know: Jared and Jay Macchierole, the Yankee fans who "caught" Robinson Cano's home run. (Or "home run.") Their 15 minutes of fame have already started, and a slot on next season's Dancing With the Stars -- or perhaps "Jersey Shore" -- can't be far behind.


Giants up 2-1: Coming into the series, Philly fans had told me that Matt Cain (not Tim Lincecum) was the Phillie killer. And he lived up to it. Meanwhile: Cody Ross's new nickname is "WTF?" Unlike the Yankees last night, I'm not sure that the Phillies are in a virtual do-or-die tonight -- not with the prospects of Halladay pitching Game 5 in SF, then Oswalt and Hamels back in Philly for Games 6 and 7.


NFL Concussion Watch: The NFL fined 3 players $175,000 for their "big hits" on Sunday, but no suspensions. I thought it was fairly settled after Sunday night that fines are not a deterrent, and that the only real deterrent is ejections and suspensions and/or massive penalty yardage.

(Meanwhile, I hope folks didn't get the wrong idea from my post yesterday: I'm not justifying or excusing the barbarity of the NFL's violence -- particularly the illegal hits. Everyone rationalizes the sport in their own way. We can all agree that the obviously illegal hits are wrong. But we all also know that the compounding toll on the players is pretty devastating -- we ignore it.)

UPDATE: James Harrison hints he might even consider retiring, because he felt his $75,000 fine was so unfair. Yeah...right. Let's just call Harrison's bluff right now: He's not going anywhere.


Favre Watch: Anyone else not wondering what he might have said to NFL officials who were asking him about the sexting? I'll bet the conversation was like "Come on, man...."


Carmelo Trade Rumors: Are the Knicks back in it? Apparently, they are finally willing to dump Danilo Gallinari -- if not directly to the Nuggets (who inexplicably don't seem to want him), then to a team that would give the Knicks a player that the Nuggets DO want. (Given Gallinari's potential, that shouldn't be that hard, right?) So I guess the question now is: What team wants Gallinari, and what are they willing to give up to get him?

(By the way, Amare had 39 points last night -- a preseason high among all players -- and led the NBA in scoring in the preseason. If nothing else, he is going to be fun to watch.)


More NBA: I will guarantee you that those super-shoes (from Athletic Propulsion Labs) banned by the NBA wouldn't help me a lick. I'm just that unathletic.

Kevin Durant is on the cover of the SI NBA Preview issue, along with... Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic? Um, what about Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook? Apparently, the team wanted to showcase that it isn't only about its stars. I'm just glad SI went contrarian and didn't feature LeBron, Wade and Bosh.


MLB Hot Stove: Given that he was my favorite player growing up, Ryne Sandberg not getting the Cubs managerial job is disappointing. I will wear my Sandberg Cubs jersey T-shirt around today in protest.


Non-Scandals: So what if the CEO of IMG bet on Roger Federer in the 2007 French Open?


Media: The worst possible NFL match-up possible drew a larger audience than an MLB playoff game featuring baseball's biggest brand.

This drew quite a bit of attention yesterday, even though you could have seen it coming, given the way the NFL has drawn an audience this year.

My theory as to what created the million-viewer delta? Fantasy football. Enough fans were impacted by Chris Johnson -- and even the two kickers -- that it could have easily been it.

More: The terrific Bomani Jones will be making his "Around the Horn" debut on Friday. He made a hilarious video to promote it. He is unlikely to top my all-time-best 0-4 career record.


Congratulations to Pete Vlastelica, Alana G and the rest of the Yardbarker team -- including the 850 bloggers repped by YB -- on the company's acquisition by Fox Sports.

I like to hear about nothing more than happy endings for start-up sports media companies....

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Football's Cognitive Disconnect

Here is the real problem with the NFL's violence problem: The entire game is built on it.

It defies logic and reason to suggest that adding 2 games to the season would be particularly debilitating -- not when players are being crushed in Week 1, Week 6... every week.

And it's not just about the dangerous hit that causes a concussion today -- it's about the 1,000 hits over a year or career that cause debilitating health years after the career is over.

I wrote something this morning about this that has stuck with me. The NFL's injury issue has two prongs:

(1) The cumulative effect. The violence of the game takes years off of players' lives. It erodes post-career quality of living. There is a long-term cost.

And fans and media have almost entirely ignored this for years. This isn't about encepholopathy; we have known for decades that NFL players have shorter life expectancies and late-life issues.

(2) The "jacked up!" effect. These are the singular moments -- the individual hits (like DeSean Jackson on Sunday, or the two hits by a necessarily unrepentant James Harrison -- that make the injury issue far more acute.

For years, these hits were celebrated -- even glorified. I think we'll look back on the "Jacked Up!" segment as one of the single most horrifying pieces of programming in sports TV history.

Now: Lamentation? Recrimination?

We hear: "There's no place in the game for THAT." For what? For big hits? For injuries? Those have been the basis of the game throughout its modern era.

More substantial penalties for dangerous hits -- 30-yard fouls, instant ejections, suspensions -- won't solve the problem. They might actually only bring even more critical attention to it.

The reality is that the game is fundamentally dangerous. This isn't steroids in baseball; this is suspending our disbelief in order to cheer on some pretty violent stuff. We all do it.

But at some point, the cognitive disconnect becomes too big: For fans, and especially for sports media.

If you're rooting for the Falcons, you cheer the hit on DeSean Jackson for a nano-second, right up until you realize the guy has been decimated. That the single hit you were just cheering might have taken a year or two off the guys' life; it almost certainly has wiped at least some portion of his memories from his synapses forever.

You don't articulate it to yourself like this; you just feel... iffy.

The sport has never been more popular. I reject the arguments that football will eventually suffer the fate of boxing.

And there will always be a pipeline of athletes willing to risk destroying their physical selves, long-term, for the rewards of playing pro football.

I am at a loss to predict how that any change to our relationship with the game manifests itself. Again: The sport has never been more popular -- even as it has never been more dangerous. (I don't causally connect those two.)

I guess I simply wonder how taut the cognitive disconnect can be stretched before it degrades in a meaningful way.

PS: Check out this great piece by Dave Zirin: "There is no making football safer."

-- D.S.

10/19 Quickie: Cliff Lee Best Ever?

It's almost unfair to try to rank Cliff Lee's dominating performance last night against Roy Halladay's no-hitter and Tim Lincecum's 14-K game (in a 1-0 win) from the LDS round.

But let me try to make an argument that Lee's win was even better:

*Allowed only 2 hits (almost Halladay-ish) and struck out 13 (almost Lincecum-ish) -- a best-of-both-worlds performance.

*Did it against the defending champ Yankees, a lineup far superior to the lineups that either Halladay or Lincecum faced. (In the Yankees' LCS home debut.)

*It is arguable (if not mathematically precise) that this game was a must-win if the Rangers want to advance. And the LCS round is "bigger" than the LDS round.

*Lee is no one-shot wonder: He became the first pitcher ever to record double-digit strikeout games three times in one postseason. (It was his 3rd win over the Yankees.)

Let's not quibble: Halladay's no-no and Lincecum's 14-K game score might -- might -- have been even better than Lee's gem. Amazingly, Lee is in the conversation.

But it's not just about what Lee did last night -- but what he has done this entire postseason, combined with what he did last season (beat NY twice) and his whole postseason career (7-0, 1.26 ERA). In a field with Doc and Freak, Lee has become the most "must-see" of all.

Is it fair to introduce that in Lee, we are watching the best postseason pitcher of our generation? His unbeaten record, "Yankee-killer" status and K dominance say "Yes."


PS: Obviously, I use "ever" in the headline in a Quickie way: "Ever" means "since ESPN launched about 30 years ago." And, in our era of "instant history," I'd say that is a generous interpretation. Most "evers" are talking about a lot less time than that.

Great cases to be made for Koufax and Gibson, let alone Christy Mathewson. But if you're talking about the last 40 years, Lee is in the conversation. And that he is even IN the conversation is impressive enough.

I am a huge fan of superlatives, but have little interest in the unsolvable debates that spring from them. Do we REALLY want to try to find a "winner" between Lee and, say, Bob Gibson? I don't think so; let's just appreciate that Lee is the best (even among the best) in recent memory.


MLB Tonight: AJ Burnett to keep the Yankees from the brink? That's must-see in its own right -- especially if you enjoy Yankee schadenfreude. (The other option is that Burnett out-performs his history and comes up "big," which -- to Joe Sheehan's point -- inevitably means that he gets big run support, not necessarily that he pitches well.)


NFL Concussion Epidemic: Belatedly, the league is going to start delivering suspensions to players who deliver "head shots" on other players.

Suspensions certainly hurt more than fines. But here is the problem: The game's culture is built on "jacked up!" Are there worse hits now than before? Or is the public perception just turning?

(This is the fundamental problem with folks who say an 18-game season is too brutal. The NFL's particular brutality -- the "devastating hits" and "head shots" -- isn't additive; it is singular yet repeatable. Fans don't see the wear-and-tear; they see the injury-producing kill-shots. Even if you shortened a season to 8 weeks, you'd still have the DeSean Jackson hit from Week 6. The sport is brutal. Want to make it safe? Make it flag football. Of course then, no one would watch.

Look at James Harrison: "I try to hurt people." Not INJURE them, mind you. I think he used a bad choice of words, and he meant that he wants to "punish" people. Punish them into thinking twice about catching that ball over the middle, punish them so that they are incrementally less effective late in game when it matters. Coaches would call that "strategy" -- and encourage it.


MNF: Titans roll, but whither VY? The story of the game was QB injuries: They lost Vince Young to a knee injury, and the Jags' David Garrard was TKO'ed with a concussion.

(Meanwhile, anyone else lose a fantasy week on Chris Johnson's late TD romp? I did! Thanks for calling all those time-outs, Jack Del Rio. You pissed off Jeff Fisher enough to let CJ rumble.)


Did Junior Seau try to kill himself? His ex-wife says no, but recent history shows that accidents (or "accidents") in cars by stars following marital issues are rarely what they seem.


Heat Advisory: LeBron had 33 -- a high among all players in the preseason -- but the Heat lost. No lingering hamstring issues for James, but the Heat took another injury: Mike Miller sprained his ankle. I think Miller is an X-factor if the Heat want to win a championship. Like the rest of them, he might not matter much in the regular season, but will be key in any playoff run.

Why are the Thunder ready to surge? Check out the contributions last night: Kevin Durant had 29; Jeff Green had 27; James Harden had 18; Russell Westbrook had 17; Serge Ibaka had 12. They are a young, talented lineup getting better every month.


College Hoops: Is UNC freshman Harrison Barnes going to be the National Player of the Year? I like that pick (cleverly staked out by CBSSports' Gary Parrish) more than other choices. One of my biggest pet peeves is the way that almost all preseason All-America teams ignore freshmen, even though freshmen have dominated the landscape, from Carmelo to Durant to Beasley to Wall. The only thing constraining Barnes' dominance is that he plays at UNC; if Barnes was at Iowa State, he would be a lock for P.O.Y.


*Magic sells Lakers stake: Is he positioning for a move to buy the Pistons? (If you could get no financial gain and had to spend your entire lifetime locked up as part of the ownership group, which team would you want to be a part-owner of? The NFL is most glamorous and easiest on your schedule, but having seen Mark Cuban live at a game, I really do like how close-up the experience is as an NBA owner.)


*Cards re-sign Tony LaRussa: This was a down year -- and the franchise has some talent issues (aside from having the best player of the last half-century) -- but LaRussa remains a Top 5 manager in baseball.


CFB Good Read: I love Clay Travis' weekly Monday college football column. Lots of good stuff in there yesterday (even beyond "Fire Addazio," which hits close to home). Cam Newton for Heisman? Yup. Boise and TCU should play a post-season exhibition? Yup. Matt Barkley as No. 1 overall pick of 2012 NFL Draft? Yup. SEC BCS secession? (My favorite.)


PED Watch: Another day, another Olympic champ is busted. This time, it was 400-meter gold medalist LaShawn Merritt who was suspended after a positive test for banned testosterone. (No, wait: He says he took "ExtenZe" -- that "male enhancement" pill you see on late-night ads on ESPN or other cable networks. Enjoy the 15 minutes of fame, ExtenZe!)

-- D.S.

Monday, October 18, 2010

10/18 Quickie: BCS, Vikes, Eagles, More

Today's Names to Know: BCS computers, Oklahoma, Brett Favre, Jerry Jones, Kevin Kolb, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Deion Branch, Chris Johnson, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Kobe, Gordon Hayward, Robbie Hummel, Eric LeGrande and More.

And the most intriguing subplot of the first iteration of the BCS rankings goes to... the computers.

That will be the biggest BCS talking point today, with Oklahoma leap-frogging Oregon and Boise in the computer polls to be overall No. 1 in the initial BCS poll.

I'm no Oklahoma fan, but I think it's a great thing for an extremely flawed process that the computers deviate from the human polls. Let's have a robust debate about what should qualify teams for high rankings on limited information.

More on the BCS -- and my BlogPoll ballot this week -- later this morning. But needless to say, I can see a seam for Alabama to surge right back into the Top 2, along with someone from the Boise-TCU-Utah triumvirate.

NFL Week 6 Notes:

*Let the discussion of Favre's redemption commence. (It was just a week late.)

*Well, NOW what does Jerry Jones do? (He SAYS he's not going to fire Wade Phillips, but I think that has to come with a big ol' "yet." Not fired YET. It's inevitable.)

*Turns out Kevin Kolb is a pretty good starter, after all.

*The NFL's concussion epidemic has a new face: DeSean Jackson.

*Is the best QB in the NFL after 6 weeks... Big Ben?

*Do the Pats beat the Ravens if they have Randy Moss instead of Deion Branch?

*Proposed: That was the biggest Rams win since they won the Super Bowl. (If I haven't said it explicitly before, I was very wrong about Sam Bradford being a rookie flop.)

*Fantasy Studs: Kevin Kolb, Ryan Torain, Jeremy Maclin.

*Speaking of the Vikings, is it bad that I watch a (relatively) healthy Percy Harvin do something awesome, like score another TD on a kickoff return, and lament the state of Florida's offense?

*Touchdown, Tim Tebow.

*Here's to Chris Johnson having a huge game on MNF tonight.

MLB Playoffs: Lee Time. Just imagine if the Rangers were pitching Cliff Lee tonight in New York up 2-0 in the series. Huge difference from being tied 1-1. (But I guess I have to let this go.)

Meanwhile in the NL: The Other Roy. Everyone was so focused on Roy Halladay's match-up with Tim Lincecum (which didn't -- and couldn't possibly -- live up to expectations), Roy Oswalt reminded why it's "H-2-O." And former NLCS hero Cole Hamels -- who has been lights-out the past month -- is up next.

NBA Preseason: Kobe had a 19-point 3rd quarter in the Lakers' loss to the Jazz, but check out Butler rookie Gordon Hayward's 26 points (and +17). Foreshadowing?

CBB: Overshadowing Midnight Madness was Robbie Hummel's re-blown ACL, taking him out for the season and once again ruining a talented Purdue's shot at a Final Four. I feel for Hummel, for his teammates and for Purdue fans, who can't catch a break on this.

Thoughts are with Eric LeGrande, his family and the Rutgers community. LeGrande is the Rutgers defensive tackle whose head injury this weekend left him with no feeling below the neck. What a horrible situation. Here is to hopeful signs of recovery.

-- D.S.

BlogPoll Monday: TCU, Boise and BCS

As I said this morning: The most intriguing subplot of the first iteration of the BCS rankings goes to... the computers.

Despite the fact that there is plenty of season left (and plenty of evidence to suggest that every team in the BCS Top 10 could still lose), expect plenty of howling today about how Oklahoma placed behind Oregon and Boise in the "human" polls, but sat at No. 1 in the BCS because all of the data-driven computer polls love the Sooners.

I'm OK with that -- certainly for now. Just as I am OK with the computers' extra emphasis on strength of schedule.

Here is the reality: If all unbeaten teams run the table between now and the final BCS ranking (presuming the higher-ranked team wins head-to-head match-ups with other unbeatens, like Auburn-LSU or TCU-Utah), Auburn and Oklahoma will play for the national title.

But any presumption of "running the table" -- aside from Boise, given its flimsy schedule and titanic talent -- is crazy. To wit:

*LSU and Auburn still have to play each other (let along having to play motivated Alabama).

*Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri all have to play each other.

*Oregon still has to beat Oregon State in Corvallis -- Oregon State will be more motivated than the Ducks, even if Oregon has a national-title-game spot on the line.

*Michigan State can't possibly keep this up -- I could see them losing as soon as this coming weekend at Northwestern, the classic kind of game NU traditionally wins.

*Hell, even TCU and Utah have to play each other, with the winner presumably (and unfairly) getting the backseat to Boise.

The point: Things will sort themselves out -- at least to the point of distilling things down to Boise, the TCU-Utah winner and, in my opinion, Alabama, which will take advantage of losses by Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan State to deliver a convincing BCS resume via running the table, including pending wins over LSU, Auburn and a gimpy SEC East champ.

The computers will love THAT.

Here is where I stand: I can gripe about Boise's schedule strength, but I also think that they are one of the Top 2 teams in the country, along with TCU or Utah -- depending on who wins their head-to-head match-up.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday CFB Hangover: What?

What a fascinating day in college football.

No. 1 Ohio State lost.
No. 2* South Carolina lost.
Nebraska lost.
Auburn won, but gave up 43 points.
Air Force** lost.

And a kind of double-whammy for Boise State: Oregon State -- one of those "signature" wins for Boise -- lost to Washington. And Nevada -- which Boise REALLY needed to be undefeated when they play in late November -- lost at Hawaii. (Offset some by VA Tech continuing to roll.)

That doesn't even count now-woeful Florida losing at home to Mississippi State -- Urban Meyer's worst loss at Florida -- and Florida's worst loss since Ron Zook lost to Mississippi State (in Starkville, not even in Gainesville), a loss that cost him his job.

If you enjoy BCS chaos, we're here. It even struck me yesterday that if you hate the BCS, Boise making this year's title game is kind of a worst-case scenario, because the BCS can point to Boise's inclusion and say "See? The system is FINE." (Which it's clearly not. The BCS being broken is only partially about keeping out worthy teams like Boise or TCU.)

And so, on this week's BlogPoll ballot, we are left with what we started with:

Boise State is No. 1.

And I would/will rank TCU at No. 2.

And, frankly, I think Utah is probably the 3rd-best team in the country right now. (Thank goodness that TCU and Utah play each other head-to-head in a few weeks. If only Boise State had that kind of true challenge.)

What about Oregon? What about Auburn? They would have a wonderful bowl game against each other, given that both have awesome offenses -- and no defense. National champs profile not just with OK defenses, but great ones. (Translation: Alabama is going to throttle Auburn, then roll the SEC East champ, and we're going to be left wondering if 1-loss Bama is better than several unbeaten teams that are out there.)

Meanwhile, if I wasn't so sure that next week Michigan State is going to become the latest top team to fold -- against Northwestern -- I would give the Spartans a puncher's chance at running the table and making their own case for being in the national-title game.

1. Boise State
2. TCU
3. Utah
4. Oregon
5. Auburn
6. Alabama
7. Oklahoma
8. Michigan State
9, 10 and Beyond: Baffling.

-- D.S.

* - BlogPoll ballot
** - No. 11 on DS BlogPoll ballot